Forestry ‘will yield the second highest level of returns’ for farmers

The importance of forestry is recognised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in terms of its commercial, environmental and social values, according to the newly-established Forest Industries Ireland (FII).

Speaking at the launch of the Ibec group for the national sector yesterday (Wednesday, January 9), the director of FII Mark McAuley noted that the department recognises the sector as yielding the second highest-yielding level of returns for the average farmer over the lifetime of the commodity.

The director explained: “We met not that long ago with the department; we’re meeting with the ministers this afternoon (January 9).

“And the department has a pretty clear view of where forestry stands with farmers in Ireland. Obviously it’s providing over €100 million a year into the forestry programme, and most of that is spent with farmers clearly in the forestry premiums that they get the first 15 years after establishment.

“It will outperform beef; it will outperform sheep; it will outperform arable – that’s where it stands.” Continue reading “Forestry ‘will yield the second highest level of returns’ for farmers”

Terrestrial laser scanners collect forest data in awesome animation

U.K.’s Forest Research has teamed up with Tampere University and Université Grenoble Alpesto to optimize measurements from forest sample plots using a terrestrial LiDAR laser – producing more accurate, more detailed, timely, and harmonized information that can be fed into national and international forest information systems.

Continue reading “Terrestrial laser scanners collect forest data in awesome animation”

Tree planting – what are the benefits of planting trees?

Trees, why plant them? And why plant so many that they become a copse or even a woodland? I can recall, many years ago, a well-known television gardener discussing tree planting and suggesting that “no matter how small your garden, you should always put a quarter of an acre aside for woodland”. At the time, I laughed so much at the thought of having even a spare square yard that I missed the reasons this celebrity gave for planting trees.

Centuries ago the answer would have been simple: to build ships — Trafalgar and all that — to build houses, to make furniture, for firewood and as cover for hunting. Later, trees were needed to provide pit props in the coal mines and telegraph posts to connect one part of the country with another.

Today’s reasons are many and more complex. Yes, we still need commercial forestry to produce timber for buildings and for furniture, and it is argued that, of course, home-grown timber is best. There remains a need for timber as fuel too, with the ever-increasing interest in biomass, wood burners and log stoves.

Positive financial benefits can be gained from growing your own wood fuel on land that might otherwise be unproductive. Continue reading “Tree planting – what are the benefits of planting trees?”

Apple forestry protection drive delivers sustainable paper packaging for all its products

Apple has announced its global forestry protection efforts have helped to preserve more than 320,000 acres of working forest, as it seeks to boost the sustainability of its product packaging.

Through its forestry programme, the tech giant has partnered with the Conservation Fund to permanently preserve 36,000 acres of working forests in North Carolina and Maine in the US, while also partnering with WWF in a bid to improve the management of up to one million acres of forest in China by 2020.

Yesterday, Apple announced that a further 320,000 acres of working forest in China – including semi-natural forests and forest plantations – have now been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) through its partnership with WWF. Continue reading “Apple forestry protection drive delivers sustainable paper packaging for all its products”

Could forestry help protect farm incomes as Brexit looms?

Brexit is probably the biggest political and economic event of recent times facing Ireland’s economy and, also, its forestry sector.

Given the Irish agricultural sector’s dependence on the UK market, particularly for beef exports, farmers may need to look at alternative methods of protecting their income as Brexit looms on the horizon.

In April 2019, the UK is set to depart the European Union; but it doesn’t change the fact that it will remain as our nearest trading partner to the east.

The hard-Brexit scenario that currently appears inevitable will raise barriers around the UK. The British population will be the biggest losers in this, as trade-tariffs raise the price of the contents of their shopping baskets. Continue reading “Could forestry help protect farm incomes as Brexit looms?”

Global count reaches 3 trillion trees

photo: David Zeleny

There are roughly 3 trillion trees on Earth — more than seven times the number previously estimated — according to a tally1 by an international team of scientists. The study also finds that human activity is detrimental to tree abundance worldwide. Around 15 billion trees are cut down each year, the researchers estimate; since the onset of agriculture about 12,000 years ago, the number of trees worldwide has dropped by 46%.

“The scale of human impact is astonishing,” says Thomas Crowther, an ecologist now at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Wageningen who led the study while at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. “Obviously we expected humans would have a prominent role, but I didn’t expect that it would come out as the as the strongest control on tree density.”

The previously accepted estimate of the world’s tree population, about 400 billion, was based mostly on satellite imagery. Although remote imaging reveals a lot about where forests are, it does not provide the same level of resolution that a person counting trunks would achieve.

Crowther and his colleagues merged these approaches by first gathering data for every continent except Antarctica from various existing ground-based counts covering about 430,000 hectares. These counts allowed them to improve tree-density estimates from satellite imagery. Then the researchers applied those density estimates to areas that lack good ground inventories. For example, survey data from forests in Canada and northern Europe were used to revise estimates from satellite imagery for similar forests in remote parts of Russia.

“It’s not like we discovered new trees,” says Crowther. “Rather, we added another layer of information that allowed us to revise much of the previous estimates.”

Improved population estimates could help resource managers to weigh up the economic benefits that forests provide in terms of water purification, soil conservation and other functions against those of harvesting or clearing trees for farmland, says ecosystems-services ecologist Becky Chaplin-Kramer of Stanford University in California. “It’s great when we can fill in gaps like this,” she says.

The highest tree densities, calculated in stems per hectare, were found in the boreal forests of North America, Scandinavia and Russia. These forests are typically tightly packed with skinny conifers and hold roughly 750 billion trees, 24% of the global total. Tropical and subtropical forests, with the greatest area of forested land, are home to 1.3 trillion trees, or 43% of the total.

The latest numbers raise questions about which species are represented where and how particular forest types evolve, says biogeochemist Susan Trumbore of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany.

“The number of trees is just one piece of the puzzle,” says Trumbore. “A tree in the tundra is not the same as a tree in the rainforest.”

Crowther cautions that even though the latest figures do not change the current science on carbon storage or diminish the impact of deforestation. “We’re not saying, ‘Oh, everything’s fine’.”

In fact, the work suggests that in some places where trees would be expected to thrive — such as warm, moist regions — human activities such as farming have largely pushed forests aside