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4th National Forest Inventory completed in 2022 (excerpt)

The national forest estate is still expanding and has now reached 11.6% of the total land area, with a wide variety of forest types present.

The total forest area has increased from 697,842 hectares (ha) in 2006 to 808,848 ha in 2022.

The increase in area is a result of afforestation and natural development of semi-natural forests.

Between 2006 and 2022 semi-natural forests are responsible for one-third (33.1%) of the new forest areas captured.

Leitrim is the county with the highest percentage of forest cover (20.1%), while Cork has the largest forest area (92,471 ha).

The age-profile of forests is increasing with 39.6% of stocked forests being less than 20 years of age and 30.4% between the ages of 21 and 30 years.

Since 2017, 40,043 ha of forests were thinned for the first time, which is a positive for wood mobilisation.

The area thinned between 2017 and 2022 has increased by 10% while the area clearfelled has decreased by 35% over the same period.

Irish forests are a rich resource of biodiversity providing important and abundant habitats for many species.

Nearly one-third of Ireland’s forests have four or more tree species present.

Also, large quantities of deadwood are present within the forest, with 10.2 million m3 of deadwood present.

For the first time over half (411,484 ha or 50.9%) of forests are in private ownership and 397,364 ha (49.1%) in public ownership.

The share of private forests in the national forest estate has increased by over 7.9% since 2006.

Broadleaf tree species account for nearly one-third (30.6%) of the stocked forest area while conifer species are the dominant species present (69.4%).

The share of broadleaf species nationally increased by 5.9% between 2006 and 2022.

The total growing stock volume of Irish forests is estimated to be over 142 million m³, an increase of over 25.5 million m³ since 2017.

Gross annual volume increment between 2017 and 2022 was 10 million m³ per year, while the mean annual standing volume felled within this period was 4.1 million m3 per year.

Forests play an important role in mitigating climate change by sequestering and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The results indicate that the national forest estate is an important sink for carbon, at 323.0 million tonnes of carbon

Overall, the forest estate appears healthy. While nearly two-thirds (63.2%) of stocked forest areas displayed signs of forest damage present, the severity of the damage was primarily low to moderate.

Damage caused by animals, competing vegetation, exposure and nutrient deficiency were the most common damage.

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