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Sustainability Focus
surpass our 30 per cent national broadleaf targets. The
recently revised forestry payments by the Department
of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) include
additional support for diverse conifer and broadleaf
planting as well as a second grant for thinning of broadleaf
woodlands. Tree guards and deer fencing grants have
been introduced as part of a new `Forest Fencing and Tree
Shelter Scheme' to reduce the risk of deer damage for
existing broadleaf woodlands. Full details for all grants
and premia can be viewed on the Teagasc website.
A diverse habitat
A continuous cover forestry measure will help generate
more diverse habitats for wildlife by creating more forests
with diverse age structure. A new Woodland Environment
Fund may also provide an access point for individual
businesses to help expand Ireland's native woodland
resource, by providing additional incentives to encourage
landowners to plant additional native woodlands on their
farms and holdings.
Contributing to our climate change targets
The EU has set emission reduction targets, with Ireland
required to reduce its emissions by 30 per cent to 2030,
compared to 2005 levels. These climate targets present
significant challenges to Irish agriculture, which accounts
for one third of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
In addition, agricultural production, particularly in the
dairy sector, is growing post quota removal, and Food
Wise 2025 has set ambitious targets for further growth in
both primary production and exports.
As well as facilitating farm efficiencies, Teagasc has
identified the appropriate and sustainable planting
of trees as a key strategy to help mitigate agricultural
emissions. The removal of carbon dioxide from our
atmosphere and its storage in plant biomass, deadwood
and harvested wood products is termed sequestration.
Based on "Ireland's National Inventory Report 2017 on
Greenhouse Gas Emissions" Irish forests removed 3.6
million tonnes of CO2 equivalent from the atmosphere.
The use of wood biomass energy in Ireland results in GHG
emission savings from the displacement of fossil fuels.
For example, in 2016, over 1.5 million tonnes of forest
based biomass was used for energy purposes in Ireland;
this helped to avoid an estimated 761,000 tonnes of CO2
emission from fossil fuel use (DAFM 2018).
In addition, we should aim for appropriate substitution
of energy-intensive products derived from aluminium,
concrete and steel by using wood products. This
significantly reduces the energy cost of buildings and
provides us with sustainable solutions for the building
sector. Expansion of the national forest estate is therefore
a key component of national climate change and land use
Other environmental benefits
Other environmental benefits achievable from forestry
include the protection of water quality. In areas adjacent
to rivers, suitably selected trees, in combination with
appropriate setbacks, can buffer against nutrient runoff.
Suitably sited trees can also stabilise river banks and help
retain water after heavy rainfall. Woodlands and forests
also provide habitats for a wide range of birds and native
wildlife and act as ideal corridors between farm habitats.
In addition woodlands and forest enhance the landscape
and provide places for people to enjoy recreation and the
outdoors. They provide the ideal educational resource in
which to learn about and appreciate the environment.
There are now 22,000 farmers in the Republic with
commercial forestry enterprises and long term prospects
are excellent for fuel, timber, and other wood uses. With
its climate and suitable soils Ireland can grow many trees
considerably faster than our EU neighbours giving us a
strong comparative advantage in the growing of wood
fibre. From a farmer perspective, forestry can be another
crop on the farm, integrated into the farm business and a
highly valuable resource when sustainably managed.