Irish forest categories and their location

The forest estate can be broadly classified as
- The remaining Native Woodlands
- Estate and Old Woodland
- State forests- mainly commercial
- Farm Forests established under grant assistance since the 80s

Because Ireland is located on the exposed windy edge of Europe and with high rainfall mountain areas have poor peaty soils you will rarely find forests growing over 500m elevation although trees were planted on peaty soils in western counties up to the 1990s.

Native Woodlands

These comprise the habitats met in MODULE 1. The best known are the WICKLOW and KILLARNEY oak woods, Alder woods in LEITRIM and the Hazel woods of the BURREN.Birch woods can be found along the fringes of the midland bogs and widely distributed in wet locations. Many of our lakes are bounded by wet woodland of alder and birch often hard to get at. Some raths support a tangle of native trees and shrubs including OAK, ASH, and WHITE AND BLACKTHORNS.

Estate and Old Woodlands

These are mainly the remaining walled estates associated with Georgian houses which were consolidated in the 18th and 19th centuries and which went into a decline in the second half of the 19th century. Probably less than 50 survive. Many of the old woodlands were felled and sold off for agriculture and as hotels and some were acquired by the state forest service.
Among the better-known survivors are CURRAGHMORE and LISMORE in Co. Waterford, BIRR, ABBEYLEIX, STRADBALLY and TULLAMORE in the midlands, KILRUDDERY, KNOCKRATH and ASHFORD in Co. Wicklow. They still support fairly large stands of mature broadleaves such as oak, beech, sycamore and ash together with older and recently planted mixed conifers and broadleaves. Grant supported planting and woodland improvement is reviving some of these estate forests.

State Forests

These are the most extensive mature and afforested or reforested areas in the country amounting to about 350k ha. While mainly conifers, increasingly, more reforested areas are being planted with broadleaves. These forests are to be found in every county and the DISCOVERY map series gives an idea of their distribution. Counties with the biggest state forest areas are the WESTERN COUNTIES, WICKLOW and TIPPERARY. State forests also form some of the larger areas of continuous woodland and can be experienced by driving through areas of the Wicklow Mountains, North Cork, East Clare and the Limerick Tipperary border. Forest parks are located in Scenic areas such as AVONDALE, GOUGANE BARRA, and
PORTUMNA on the Shannon. Forest Parks are also an important feature of State forests in Northern Ireland. As most state forests are open to the public for walking it is easy to experience trees and the landscape in any part of the country.

Farm Forests

These forests are the new grant aided plantations established since around 1990. As well as forests owned b farmers they also include private investments in forestry by other individuals and organizations. These plantations now comprise over 200,000 ha and are highly regulated by environmental and sustainable management constraints. Again the DISCOVERY Series maps will indicate their location. Grants are given to help establishment and management. Farm forestry is strongly environmentally regulated. Species represented, comprise some

55% conifers and 35% broadleaves. Forests are located country wide, mainly on marginal grazing lands at elevations c 200 to 400 m but tending towards lower lying areas. Most planting has taken place in Counties CORK, KERRY and CLARE. The oldest of these plantations is now approaching 20 years and thinning is beginning to take place. As owners wish to maximize output forest management companies are increasingly getting involved in forest operations. Future expansion of tree growing in Ireland will, largely depend on farm forest development.

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