Native Woodland, an Introduction

Native Woodland Management in Ireland 

Centuries of clearance and over-exploitation have reduced the once extensive native woodland of Ireland to the remnants we can now see. Instances of old native woodlands continue to be found as little isolated stands. These are mainly in regions with weak soils which were not normally suitable for agriculture. However, some areas exist in old estates where they are  managed for timber and as protection for game. Native woodland has also grown in the Midlands on pasture in uplands, and cutaway bog, particularly in recent decades.

Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry

Many of our native forests could have existed since post-glacial times (ancient or long-recognized woodlands). Hence, these have a broader variety of native flora and fauna, many of which are unique to these regions and not seen in modern commercial plantations. The woodlands are an essential habitat in a landscape which is increasingly controlled by intensive agriculture and as a result are the focus of nature conservation and biodiversity improvement.

Native woodlands, as the name suggests, are comprised of native tree species. Native woodlands are mainly broadleaved in Ireland. Examples are oak, ash, alder and birch and Scots pine. Native conifer woods are extremely scarce, the very best case being the yew wood in the Killarney National Park on the Muckross Peninsula.

Foresters now recognise their value as hot spots for native biodiversity and now perceive native woodlands in another light. Regional woodlands are being produced in riparian areas adjacent to lakes, rivers and streams to protect water courses from siltation and eutrophication. These places may also provide corridors for wildlife to move through and link the landscape aspects of biodiversity.

Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry


Several initiatives were undertaken recently to restore and enlarge our native woodlands. Each has led to our knowledge of the best way to preserve and manage the native woodland resource. Ecologists, Foresters,and other stakeholders have developed and executed significant strategies for the restoration of native woodlands. A few of these initiatives are listed below:

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)

Restoration work with the native woodlands was first initiated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). This organisation manages about 5,000ha that symbolizes the finest of the native forests that have been named as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or nature reserves.

Overgrazing by livestock and wild deer present real risks to the future existence of a few of these woods. Most noteworthy the oak forests of the Glengarriff Nature Reserve, as well as the Killarney National Park. Restoration work continues  but despite the price, issues and the size of the job the risks are being checked.

Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry

Folks’ Millennium Forests

The Woodlands of Ireland undertook this job; a group set up by the Heritage Council to focus attention. The group also recognized new native woodlands and restored historic woods. A native tree was planted on behalf of each family in Ireland and a certificate was published to any or all houses giving details in regards to where trees were to be found in the Family Tree Scheme. The trees were planted within the restoration of the native woodland communities which contain nature trails, woodland walks, interpretative and recreational facilities.

Native Woodland Scheme

Finally, The Native Woodland Scheme (NWS) is geared toward protecting, improving and enlarging Ireland’s native woodland resource and related biodiversity, through proper planting and direction. The system also supports the growing of quality hardwood lumber in friendly areas. The system consists of two independent components: Conservation concentrating on guarding and improving existing native woodland, and Establishment creating new native woodland.

Ecoplan specialise in the management of Native Woodlands. So, if you are interested in establishing, managing or learning about Native Woodlands, please contact Ecoplan Forestry.

Sean McGinnis

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