A Government plan to plant almost 400 million trees by 2046 was announced as part of the Climate Action Plan in the past few months. There is a target of 70% conifers and 30% broadleaf for these new plantations which has led to some biodiversity advocates being concerned about the continued afforestation of Ireland by non-native conifers.
Currently the most common tree species in Ireland is Sitka spruce, a coniferous tree from the northwest coast of North America. This one species occupies over 50% of the forest area here, while conifers as a group make up over 70% of the total.
Leitrim currently has the highest forest cover in Ireland and Sitka spruce accounts for 61.3% of this (the national average is 51%). Just over half of these plantations were under private ownership, with over 30% of forest owners living outside the county.
The prevalence of spruce has led to the formation of a campaign group, Save Leitrim, which says the species is having a “detrimental impact on the social and economic fabric of rural communities and the environment”.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We want to investigate the impact Sitka spruce is having on the Irish ecosystem and whether environmental concerns are justified. This will include researching the biodiversity of forests dominated by spruce as well as environmental issues such as water quality.
An EPA report found that spruce plantations can have a negative impact on flora diversity, especially if not managed appropriately. We want to look into what is being done by government and semi-state Coillte to improve the forestry ecosystem and ensure that these forests are properly managed. This will involve freedom of information and access to information about the environment requests.
Finally, we want to look into areas of Ireland that are heavily forested by spruce such as Leitrim and the Slieve Blooms and examine local views about the conifers.
Have you any information that you think would help this investigation, contact us at [email protected]
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