Irelands industrial plantation forestry disrupts soils, pollutes water, reduces biodiversity and has a negative impact on the landscape. Irelands main forest management system is that of clearfell and reforest which has a 'high impact' on the environment. Many plantations are on fragile peat soils and are heavily fertilised. Often forestry is established on wetlands which are drained exacerbating flooding further downstream. Only 1% of the states forests are managed under low impact management systems.
Endangered species are particularly at risk and habitat loss is a major cause of extinctions.
Yet here in Ireland the habitat of the Hen Harrier continues to be afforested, even in Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated for their protection, despite the fact that forestry results in a net loss of habitat. This rare species was once widespread across Ireland but now only occurs in a few counties.
And Irelands few remaining populations of the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel are no longer reproducing as sediment laden, nutrient rich run-off pollutes their environment, particulary following clearfell. This species, an indicator of pristine water was once in every river. Urgent measures are needed if it is not to join the list of Irelands extinct species. Although rivers have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation the protection offered by Irelands guidelines is inadequate.
And there are many more examples.
Many countries manage their forests sustainably - there are plenty of models to follow. Irelands Forestry Policy must be reviewed and effective measures established to protect Irelands endangered biodiversity.