Emerald Isle’s Farmers Lead the Charge in Tree Planting, Accounting for Nearly Half of Afforestation Efforts in 2023 – CSO Report Reveals

"Farmers Lead Afforestation Efforts: New Forestry Plantings by Farmers Make Up Nearly Half of 2023 Afforestation, CSO Report Reveals"

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has revealed that in 2023, farmers were responsible for planting 47% of the new forestry in Ireland. This data, released on Tuesday, June 25, highlights that a total of 1,651 hectares were afforested last year, marking a 27% decrease from the previous year’s 2,273 hectares. The figures are based on an analysis of the area afforested under Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine (DAFM) schemes, showcasing the ongoing efforts to increase forest cover across the country.

In 2023, farmers planted 773 hectares of trees, while non-farmers contributed 877 hectares, with the public sector responsible for 2 hectares. The number of afforestation parcels in 2023 was 287, with an average size of 5.8 hectares. This is a decrease from 2022, where there were 309 parcels with an average size of 7.4 hectares. The shift towards more diversified forest types is evident in the data, with broadleaf species making up 54% (899 hectares) of the afforestation area in 2023, up from 42% the previous year.

This marks the first time that broadleaf species have dominated the planting landscape since the CSO series began. Sitka spruce, a common conifer species, accounted for 39% of the afforestation area in 2023, with 636 hectares planted. The CSO data also reveals a downward trend in afforestation rates since 2016, with a slight increase noted in 2022. The peak year for afforestation was in 2010, with 8,314 hectares planted.

Niamh Shanahan, a statistician in the CSO environment division, emphasized the significant decline in afforestation compared to previous years. She noted that in 2023, the area planted was only 24% of what was planted in 2007. Shanahan highlighted the increase in the share of afforested area planted by farmers, rising to 47% in 2023 from 23% in 2022, but significantly lower than their 2014 share of 97%. The choice of tree species has also evolved over the years, with alder and ash being predominant from 2007 to 2013, and alder and birch taking over from 2015 to 2023.

Sitka spruce remains the dominant conifer species, comprising 84% of coniferous species planted in 2023. The average parcel size for afforested areas has shown a decline over the years, with the lowest recorded in 2023 at 5.8 hectares, compared to the highest average of 8.4 hectares in 2009. The geographical distribution of afforestation in 2023 shows Roscommon leading with 11% of the total afforested area, followed by Galway (8.4%), Mayo (7.9%), and Cork (7.7%). Notably, Dublin did not record any afforestation in 2023, while Monaghan, Wexford, and Waterford reported the lowest rates.

The data provided by the CSO offers valuable insights into the trends and patterns of afforestation in Ireland, reflecting the changing landscape of forestry practices and the contributions of different sectors towards increasing forest cover. As the country continues to prioritize sustainable land use and environmental conservation, monitoring and analyzing afforestation data will remain crucial in shaping future policies and initiatives in the forestry sector.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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