Forestry Network Newsletter
// FNN 89
Sitka Spruce in Ireland: more of the same. JOBS: Environmental NGO administrator. Birdwatch Ireland field officers.
Forestry Cuts: The real story - mugged by its own. MEPs bid to boost EU forest funding. Review: Sitka Spruce in Ireland. Do we need a forestry tribunal? Native Woodlands: something positive
FOREST NETWORK NEWSLETTER
ISSUE NUMBER 89
FEBRUARY 19 2003
WEEKLY ON WEDNESDAYS
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Sitka Spruce in Ireland: more of the same
Environmental NGO administrator
Birdwatch Ireland field officers
Forestry Cuts: The real story - mugged by its own
MEPs bid to boost EU forest funding
4. ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
Review: Sitka Spruce in Ireland
Do we need a forestry tribunal?
Native Woodlands: something positive
7. ABOUT US
Sitka Spruce in Ireland: more of the same
This week we at last review Sitka spruce in Ireland. Our review finds the work to be a useful and informative work fatally flawed by the desire to promote this alien exotic conifer as the solution to Ireland's national forestry policy.
Perhaps most disturbing of all is the insistence that forestry as practiced under the 1996 Forestry Plan is in any way sustainable.
It takes great self control to live in Ireland in these times. To watch a Coillte Regional manager tell an enraged community meeting that their forest has to be clearfelled for economic reasons says it all. Where are the other planks of sustainability - the environment - and the social? Why is the tiny percentage of our national forests which actually are an amenity being felled at all?
In truth, how can we even engage in debate when COFORD published books that are as clearly biased - and in several instance ill informed - under the banner of sustainability?
The saddest story to come out of Irish forestry in the last decade is the hedgeonomy of interests that have come together to support our unsustainable national policy. Where is the independent and critical voice of the academic community? [Collegiant is history. FNN 79, 13 November 2001 etc.] The Universities, the Government, and the industry itself all have been undermined through European funds.
Sitka spruce in Ireland, for all its knowledge and admirable qualities is just more of the same.
2.1 Environmental (Ecological) NGO Core Funding Ltd. seeks an Administrator & Co-ordinator for newly established NGO Secretariat.
Experience in project development & familiarity with environmental issues essential. We require dynamic individuals with:
Ability to identify & develop funding opportunities.
Experience including finance, media & team management skills.
Please reply with current CV to: firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 21st February.
Interviews 3rd & 4th March in Dublin.
2.2 BirdWatch Ireland Fieldwork Opportunities
BirdWatch Ireland is currently recruiting fieldworkers and research assistants for spring-summer 2003. Deadline for applications extended to 21 February 2003.
¬? Corncrake Fieldworkers (3 contracts, 6 months)
¬? Corncrake Research Assistant (1 contract, 6 months)
Voluntary Corncrake Research Assistant (min 1 month)
¬? Farmland Birds Fieldworkers (2 contracts, 3 months)
¬? Roseate Tern Research Assistants (2 contracts, 4 months)
¬? Little Tern Wardens (2 Contracts, 4 months)
¬? Upland Birds Surveyors (2 contracts, 4 -5 months)
¬? Chough Fieldworker (1 contract, 4 months)
For further details and application forms, contact Marie Gilligan, BirdWatch
Ireland Midlands Office, +353-509-51676, e-mail
3.1 Forestry Cuts: The real story - mugged by its own
The Book of Estimates launch coincided with the start of the current planting season. The severity and suddenness of the forestry cuts caused great anger.
The vocal responses led to an Irish Times editorial and front-page cartoon as well as significant ongoing commentary in the Farmers Journal and elsewhere.
Two months on it is necessary to look at the slashing of forestry expenditure and where it came about and who could change it. Firstly a context.
Forestry has been "fostered" in various Departments over the years. In 1996, when it was in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the Government launched a Strategic Plan for the Development of the Forestry Sector in Ireland. It was a first.
The document included a welcoming note from Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. He noted that:
¬? Ireland's forest cover was considerably below the European Union average;
¬? that forestry in Ireland had significant unrealised potential for positive and economic and social benefit;
¬? that forestry by its nature presented particular difficulties in the area of funding;
¬? that implementation of the Plan required a sustained and major programme of afforestation over the next three decades if necessary levels of timber output were to be achieved.
Plan required sustained commitment
Minister Yates noted that implementation of the plan would require sustained commitment on the part of many interest end groups within both private and public sectors.
That Strategic Plan, despite significant divergences, is still the plan. The overall aim of the Strategic Plan is to develop forestry to a scale and in a manner which maximises its contribution to national, economic and social well being on a sustainable basis and which is compatible with the protection of the environment.
Since 1997 major changes in species composition, imposed at short notice, environmental restrictions which excluded large areas from afforestation and many other factors militated against full implementation of the Government strategy. However, the Rural Development Plan for the period 2000-2006 published in November 2000, provided a framework reasonably compatible with the Strategy although lacking its focus. The premium increase in 2001 was a help. The Taoiseach in June 2002 published the Programme for Government that stated that "we will work to increase forest planting levels to 20,000 hectares per annum".
Disappointment at only one reference to forestry was tempered with the view that with the planting programme central to the development plan and the Government committed to it then the rest would surely follow. How wrong that was. The budgetary process had commenced. I have been refused requests, under Freedom of Information, for documentation about it (it would, according to an official, be contrary to public interest - we are a dangerous lot!). It is, however, possible, to conclude - mostly from published data - that Forestry was mugged - by its own Department. If Forestry had retained even its 2002 position it should have €98m - the extra €15m would plant over 5,000 hectares and give €2m in farmer premiums this year.
Forestry was punished on the treble:
a) General Government cutbacks - its share of the cuts would be at most €11m;
b) Re-allocation within the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources - taking €15m from forestry.
c) Wrong ELS (existing level of service) calculation leading to a further loss of about €9m.
The latter needs a brief explanation. Even with a static planting level forestry expenditure would increase because of premium commitment to those who planted in the previous year.
It should have had ELS of at least €112m whereas it may have had only €104m. This error arose, in my view, because premium payments to farmers are categorised as capital expenditure (they are actually compensation for loss of income). The guaranteed commitments to farmers and others, now over €40m a year, should be treated as current expenditure and recognised separately in the Book of Estimates.
So forestry got just €82.6m - with over €45m pre-committed to premiums and other schemes. The senior minister left the Minister of State short of money for a viable planting programme (even a 14,000 hectare programme requires €40m) let alone funding for essential and promised measures to protect forest owner incomes and develop forest product and markets.
How did the Independent Expenditure Review Committee conclude that forestry could be deferred (its only term of reference which it might conceivably have used to justify its decision)? What information did it have? Was afforestation explained - farmers destocking ahead of planting, wanting to plant ahead of early retirement (to mention just two), nurseries with stocks built up over three years that cannot be used after this year, contracting businesses with four-year contracts geared to targeted planting levels?
Did anyone explain how roading had to be postponed for up to two years pending approval of improved grants (even though the details were published two years ago)?
And that if roads are not built thinning cannot be done? Owners, applicants and businesses had a legitimate expectation that adequate funding would be available for 2003. As of now, when the guaranteed premium commitments are excluded, forestry expenditure will be less in 2003 than in 1997.
Is the Government cutting planting?
Is this to be the first Irish Government to cut planting - set to fall to its lowest level since 1987? Who is responsible for the lost opportunity for hundreds of farmers to improve their lot, the destruction of fifteen million trees, the decimation of an infrastructure that cannot be rebuilt overnight, the loss of rural jobs and a natural resource that would become a resource for rural development?
Cabinet Minister Dermot Ahern must take responsibility. He must restore or replace funding. He has said that he would meet the sector but his office turns us away. We can explain that a small investment now has, with the support of applicants and businesses, the capacity to keep this programme on track, but time is running out - we can almost smell trees burning.
Nurseries and contracting businesses have the resources (as of today) to handle a viable afforestation programme and necessary support measures.
I, and others in the sector, have ideas for the future. Does the Minister want to hear? If not, we need another foster parent.
FCCA, director, Woodland Contractors Ltd, Merchants Dock, Galway and chairman, Forestry Assessment Companies Group
¬© Farmer's Journal
3.2 MEPs bid to boost EU forest funding
Environment Daily 1386, 17/02/03
MEPs have voted to increase the budget of a planned four-year EU forest research programme by more than a quarter, from €52m to €67m. The European parliament last week also made extensive textual changes to a proposal issued by the European Commission last summer
These put more emphasis on forest fire prevention and alter the Commission's proposed definition of forested land. The changes must be considered by EU governments before a second reading and possible conciliation. See parliamentary texts adopted
(on 13 February 2003).
4. ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
Sitka Spruce in Ireland Reviewed
The Preface sets the tone for the approach for this book. It states that 'One of my [David Nevins] principle concerns as Chairman is that COFORD should support national forest programmes and the forest industry by authoritative, well-researched guidelines and information. Sitka Spruce in Ireland fully achieves that objective: it is both authoritative and fully up to date.'
This is an interesting perspective as it gives the impression that COFORD's research endeavours to support and promote the national forestry policy, that is with a predominantly economic remit rather than unbiased research into the many other equally important elements of sustainable forestry.
Yet we are informed in the foreword by Eugene Hendrick 'Sitka spruce forests, as is well demonstrated in this publication, are managed sustainably [as in the principle of sustainable forest management] in Ireland.
"Sustainable forest management is the stewardship and use of forests and forest land in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems."
This should kept in mind as the book is read.
Chapter 1 'An exotic finds its niche' exalts Sitka spruces growth capacity and ability to recover from virtual death in ' the most remarkable manner' (Page 8)
Numerous incidences of specimen trees of great height and girth are cited and a brief history of the trees introduction to Ireland and its consequent establishment as a plantation species - all very interesting. The chapter closes with the interesting comment 'So great has been the interest in Sitka spruce in Ireland that a survey of the available literature on Irish forestry and forest products found that 16.5% of total records related to Sitka spruce, the next highest being lodge pole pine with 5.5% and other species represented 2.2% or less.
This infers that there is little information in regard to the growing of other species, in particular broadleaves, in Ireland and that due to the unsurpassed yield class of Sitka this has been the focus of Irish forestry for decades. It is also interesting to note that in 1948 Sitka spruce consisted of 18% of the total afforested area - a figure which has risen to 60%.
One would not dispute the facts given in Chapter 2 'Provenance and Breeding'. After a brief description of the history of the arrival and establishment of Sitka Spruce in Ireland, we enter into plant breeding. It is of interest to learn that vegetative propagation by means of root cutting appears to be the approach adopted, (particularly recommended for planting in productive sites due to the increased costs involved) -'by this method one seed can produce 40-60 cuttings per year' and ' 600, 000 - 700, 000 plants are produced by this method each year'. This must surely lead to a lack of genetic diversity with all its associated problems for a nation forestry programme.
Also 'Current research includes somatic embryogenesis ' in which clones are produced represented by normal plants'. But at least the dangers of this are given 'This research remains fully conscious of the potential dangers involved in excessive reliance on clonal forestry (Thompson 200), a danger even greater than that involved in over reliance on the use of monocultures of exotic species.'
It is emphasised in chapter 3 'Crop establishment and nutrition' that 'Drainage of waterlogged soils and cultivation of indurated (compacted) soils are necessary to improve soils aeration. Adequate soil air in essential to root development and function (Pritchett 1979). Peat and particularly blanket peat is remarkably impermeable (Galvin 1976) and drainage is always necessary for successful forest development'.( This becomes significant when the issue of Carbon sequestration is looked at in Chapter 5.) Infact the practice of planting on peat appears to be admired in that it uses otherwise worthless land productively.
With regard to fertilisation, sufficient phosphorous is necessary for successful growth particularly on peat (p32) and then on p70 concern is expressed at increased phosphorous levels [in water on blanket peat] due to the application of phosphorous fertiliser to the second rotation crops'. (Cummins and Farrell (1978)) which as we all know can lead to eutrophication.
The mean yield class on blanket peat is given to be 13.3,which is interesting to note as in the Forest Service publication 'Forestry Schemes, Procedures and Standards Manual' it states that 'for a commercial crop the land must be capable of at least yield class 14'.(Yield classes are quoted in the book as low as 7.1 in certain situations and on certain soil types.)This must bring into question, the practice of afforestation and reafforestation of blanket peat and on other areas of marginal land -in particular if sustainable forestry is the key phrase we are supposed to be keeping in mind.
Those who are concerned about the use of chemical pesticides will be pleased to hear that in a reforestation experiment it was found that the herbicide gylphosate could have a negative effect on early survival and height growth up to eight years, which may limit the use of this herbicide, at least in reforestation.
This leads us into 'Injurious factors' (Chapter 4) which cites windthrow as a serious problem with the 'shallow rooted Sitka spruce' and that 'Ireland can expect severe gales at 10-15 year intervals' (Gallagher 1974). The most severely affected areas are given as the south west coast followed closely by the entire west coast. The variables most functionally related to windthrow are given as ' altitude (over 137m), aspect (north) and soil type (gley or peaty gley).. These stands will be felled by 30-35 years of age and undergo no thinning as this would leave them even more prone to windthrow, resulting in poor quality timber with a high percentage of juvenile wood, suitable only for the low grade end of the timber market.
It would be interesting to investigate the percentage of conifer plantation established under these variables to assess where foresters may well be reaping an early and potentially uneconomic harvest
And so on to Chapter 5 -Sitka spruce and the environment. This begins with carbon sequestration. Figures at equilibrium carbon storage capacity (maximum long term average) are given as 211 t/ha for Sitka spruce at yield class 24. Apparently this is succeeded by unthinned poplar at 212 t/ha (yield class is not given neither is it indicated whether the Sitka spruce is thinned or unthinned).
For comparison 'Beech of yield class 6, rotation 92 years (the rotation of Sitka spruce or poplar is not given) has a carbon capacity of 200 t/ha and for oak yield class 4; rotation 95 years has a capacity of 154t/ha.
This is in our opinion a misrepresentation of the basic facts. The authors use the yield class for Sitka spruce at virtually its optimum growth as the authors themselves point out: 'Crops of Sitka spruce with a yield class of 24 are not unknown in Ireland'. As stated above, for Sitka Spruce yield class 14 is specified by the Forest service as the minimum requirement for grant aided afforestation. The mean yield class under Coillte's management is approximately16 [p 15].
While blatantly exaggerating the yield class of average Irish Sitka and so inflating the carbon sequestration tonnage, the authors do quite the reverse when analysis broadleaves by calculating on the lowest yield classes for the broadleaves. Beech can achieve yield class 10 and oak 8 (Growing Broadleaves, Padraig M. Joyce) virtually doubling the yield class provided here and giving a significant increase from the tonnage quoted. The authors buttress their manipulation of the statistics with statements like '69% of the total carbon stored in Coillte's forest is stored in Sitka spruce'. Given that Sitka spruce represents 65% of their total forest area (p 11), this is hardly surprising.
No indication is given of the carbon lost from the soil through drainage operations. Yet the extent of these operations is recorded earlier in the book 'Drainage of waterlogged soils and cultivation of indurated (compacted) soils are necessary to improve soils aeration. Adequate soil air in essential to root development and function' (Pritchett 1979). Peat and particularly blanket peat is remarkably impermeable (Galvin 1976) and 'drainage is always necessary for successful forest development'
In fact information published in the COFORD book 'Carbon Sequestration & Irish Forests' states that 'In a recent study, Byrne et al.(1999) found that forestry development transformed a blanket peatland from a net source of CH4 to a weak sink and that CO2 emissions were greatly increased.' And: 'Drainage of intact raised bogs and fens will reduce CH4 emissions and increase CO2 emissions. Drainage of fens may also stimulate N2O emissions (Martikaineen et al., 1993; Regina et al., 1996,1998) Also 'Although forestry development may convert a peatland from a CH4 source to a CH4 sink, the strength of this sink may be reduced by CH4 emissions form drainage ditches.'(Page 9)
And with regard to wet mineral soils 'Armentano (1980) cited in Bouwman (1990) agrees that drainage of wet mineral soils may lead to carbon release as a result of organic matter oxidation.'
It should be clear from these references that a reduction of greenhouse gases through afforestation is not necessarily the case. As was previously mentioned 'Drainage of waterlogged soils and cultivation of indurated (compacted) soils are necessary to improve soils aeration. Adequate soil air in essential to root development and function.' Therefore to state that 'It is a clearly established fact that the best and fastest contribution that Ireland can make to the international move to reduce the incidence of greenhouse gases and global warming is through the planting of Sitka spruce on suitable land' is reprehensible. It is a clearly established fact that the best and fastest contribution Ireland can make to the international move to reduce the incidence of greenhouse gases and global warming is to reduce emissions.
In relation to landscape, amenity and recreation the authors have quoted antiquated comments - some from 1891. - in favour of Sitka spruce from a time when Irish forestry did not have the impact that it has today. The authors express regret when they state 'It is a fact of present-day life in Ireland (and also in England) that conifers in general, and Sitka spruce in particular, have been so denigrated in the public media that the very mention of "Sitka spruce" is widely understood to carry with it pejorative implications'.
They might better try and seek the causes of this perception. Is it due to the negative impact coniferisation has both visually, socially and environmentally and the greater public awareness of the effect of exotics on Ireland's native biodiversity.
With regard to water, the authors have focused on acidification - a process they appear not to fully understand. The effects of factors such as sedimentation and changes to the habitat structure appear to have conveniently escaped their attention.
Acidity first. The statement that 'Acidity, therefore is a product of man's industrial activity - the forest merely acting as a conduit, not as a creator' (p.69) when applied to commercial plantation forestry is simply not true.
In fact all vegetative growth will lead somewhat to acidification in particular if the biomass is removed thereby not returning the basic cations to the soil. It is a clearly established fact that conifers irrespective of scavenging pollution have a greater acidifying effect on soils than do broadleaves, which is enhanced when conifers are harvested as a crop.
There are a number of reasons for this. Sitka's shallow rooted nature and the acidic leaf litter are basic facts. Afforestation by Sitka spruce on poorly buffered soil leads to acidification leading to leaching of aluminium from the geology. This is toxic to fish and other biota. It is well established by numerous research projects between 1989 - to date and resulted in the implementation of the acid sensitive protocols requiring specific testing in more than 700,000 hectares of Ireland. Yet the authors appear are unaware of the designation of acid sensitive areas in Ireland and the restrictions of afforestation therein. Surely this in itself is cause for this work to be withdrawn?
Natural conifer forests that live and die in situ return any basic cations to the soil. In countries where intensive harvesting occurs lime is often applied to counteract the acidifying effect. However this can alter the natural acidity of the area leading to alterations in the ecology of the area. There are no simple solutions - except for not practicing commercial forestry in such areas.
The authors have focussed on research carried out in Munster which in the AQUAFOR report (1997) is cited as being less sensitive than other more poorly buffered areas such as west Galway-Mayo and Wicklow. This report, also published by COFORD, goes on to say that 'In the Munster region, the relationships between forest cover, stream acidity and invertebrates, were more complex. The main trend in community diversity and abundance apparently related to altitudes rather than land use. Land use did play a secondary role, with communities from sites of medium-high catchment forest cover tending to resemble communities at higher altitudes more than at similar altitudes with zero or low forest cover.' And 'Sites within catchments with low to medium forest cover tended to have larger fish stocks (density and biomass) than corresponding sites with zero forest cover. Catchments with high forest cover tended to have lowest fish stocks. However it is unlikely that the decreases at high levels of forest cover were due to acidification-related factors in Munster. Physical factors such as sedimentation and changing habitat structure were probably more important.'
Studies in Wicklow and Galway-Mayo showed that acid episode were most severe and long-lasting in certain afforested catchments and tended to occur in winter and spring when salmonids are at a particularly vulnerable stage in their life cycle. Undesirably high mean streamwater levels of labile monomeric aluminium, which is toxic to fish [and many other organisms] , were recorded in certain forested catchments ‚Ä¶.' Also ' a lower diversity of aquatic macro invertebrates and a paucity of mayflies (Ephemeroptera) were associated with certain heavily afforests catchments in the Wicklow study area.'
There is no mention of this study in this chapter - despite the information, as mentioned earlier, being available through the same publishers - COFORD.
So onto soil which opens with a fascinating statement, 'It is widely believed that coniferous forest cover is associated with acid soils, and almost equally widely implied that this is an undesirable situation. But since most soils of natural conifer forests are acidic, and since most species of Tsuga, Picea, Abies and Pinus grow best in quite acid soils (Pritchett 1979) the implied concern seems misplaced.
We would suggest to the learned authors that the concerns are not at all misplaced. If perhaps they understood the different strategies that most broadleaf and coniferous species employed for their survival they would retract this comment.
In fact many species of deciduous tree shed large amounts of basic minerals with their autumn leaves. These leaves decay rapidly as microbes and fungi can metabolise base-rich substrates quickly , returning these minerals to the soil. Basic cations tend to be relatively mobile in solution and winter rains wash them down into the soil profile. They are than reabsorbed in the spring making this a cyclical process. The deep rooted nature of these trees gives them the ability to reabsorb these cations form throughout the profile. The constantly cycled elements are more readily available than if they were static. The process encourages microbial activity and a complex food web is established within the soil. The macrofauna mix this soil which over centuries or millennia will create a deep soil referred to as a brown earth.
Conifers however, do not recycle basis in this manner and they have a more stress tolerant strategy. Bases are reabsorbed into the tree from the needles before they fall and therefore the needle litter is very acidic when compared to broadleaves. It is much slower to decay and the resulting soil fauna is much decreased, with little mixing of the profile. Conifers tend to have shallow roots and as the few available minerals tend to occur in the surface horizons of the soil and there is a very limited recycling of basic cations. The net result is an acidic soil. These conditions will lead to the formation of a podzol, with a dark surface layer consisting of partially decomposed litter, a pale layer from which the coloured components have been leached under the acid conditions into a lower hard coloured layer called a pan. So not only does soil type determine the plant species that will be successful but the vegetation will influence the soil development.
The figures given for bird populations may well be the case but not enough information is given in the text to obtain a full picture of the effects of conifer plantations on bird populations. It must be noted that it is not always the number of different species that should be used as an indicator of the value of biodiversity.
We would however agree wholeheartedly with the statement 'There is no doubt that a high degree of dependence on a single species, especially and exotic one, represents an increased risk of catastrophic collapse in the face of a newly introduced pest or disease.'(p 72) To improve diversity over-mature, thinned stands with plenty of dead wood are recommended, which unfortunately is contrary the methods used to counteract windthrow and those that are recommended to give the best economic returns.
To conclude this chapter the Irish Times journalist Fintan O'Toole is quoted as writing in 2000 of Coillte's inheritance of "a major art of the natural environment ‚Ä¶ Endless rows of low-quality conifers like Sitka spruce are ugly, damaging to rivers and lakes, and an arid habitat for wildlife" which is directly followed by 'Here again we may quote from Bernhard Fernow. In 1893 he wrote to the Secretary of agriculture, in response to an article by a member of the U.S. Geological Survey who had been critical of the scientific approach to forest policy: "One can not but deeply regret that men whose position before the public imposes on them the responsibility of leading public opinion intelligently and upon the basis of well-established facts should thus be found ignoring their responsibility" (Rogers 1951).
All of Mr O'Tooles complaints and animadversions are dealt with in the course of this book. And then (to cap all of this rather pompous arrogance) 'In order to correct this image and to achieve the appropriate balance between wood production and environmental acceptability [no mention of social acceptability] a thorough and unbiased public education programme on all aspects of forestry is "a consummation / Devoutly to be wised" (Shakespeare : Hamlet. 3.1.63-4)'
Our recommendations would be that an appropriate starting point for such a programme would be to revisit biased issues within this publication.
Chapter six 'Growing Space: Effect on crop characteristics and yield,' details various thinning regimes and their outcomes in terms of yield and timber quality and gives details of silviculture practices that reduce the risk of windthrow. It clearly states that if the thinning window has elapsed, no thinning may be the best option as delayed thinning gives an increased risk of windthrow. On certain soil types such as peaty gleys and surface water gleys a no thin policy is recommended. Apparently in the Republic of Ireland "Some 32 per cent of state plantations are classified as being no thin"(Gerely and Philips 1999) and goes on to say 'Not thinning, although it provides for greater stand stability, has considerable implications for yield assortments and timber quality.'
The thinning experiments used to demonstrate the different outcomes from a number of thinning regimes are interesting. However It must be noted that the lowest yield class is given as 20 and the highest 26 which again is much higher than the average (on peat soils 13.3 and on Coillte land 16 ). The rotations are above the norm practiced in Ireland (30-40 years). For example results are given for rotations of 44, 46 and 57 years. The question must be asked why are not more typical sited used in research into thinning regimes and rotation length? Or, as is typical of this publication, were the reports used those which would show Sitka spruce in the most favourable light?
Chapter 7 Sitka Spruce Wood Properties opens with the sentence 'The properties of Irish grown Sitka Spruce wood are very different from those of the species as it occurs in the old-growth forests of the American northwest.' Sitka spruce from the American northwest is a high value product and have more mature, knot free timber due. When compared to plantation grown Sitka spruce it states 'According to Bendsten (1978),"From a utilisation standpoint, the principal difference between wood from the man-made and the earlier generation forests is that accelerated growth leads to earlier harvests and a greater proportion of juvenile wood". There is also a difference in branchiness, due to a process of natural pruning in the earlier generation forests.
In both the U.K and Ireland a major cause of undesirable product quality has been attributed to knots and a large core of juvenile wood.'
This chapter details the characteristics of juvenile wood (p 104) which need not be gone into here but is well worth reading. Extending the rotation and thinning can reduce the amount of juvenile wood in the core. However, with increased height comes an increased risk of windthrow and any such practices would be restricted to windfirm sites.
The other main factors in degrade are compression wood and knottiness. Pruning improves wood properties and 'should be accompanied by thinning to maximise the proportion of knot-free wood' - presumably not recommended for unstable sites!
With regard to durability (p108) 'Sitka spruce is neither naturally durable nor easily treatable with preservative.' Apparently the ray tracheid area is only one fifth of pinewood and this limits the radial penetration of spruce wood. Pit closure is a factor, which contributes to the poor penetration of liquid preservatives. Storage of spruce in water rendered the timber more permeable when dried however this decreases strength and adds costs. Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) and creosote are the most commonly used preservatives. Such treatment is essential to increase the service life of Sitka spruce when used outdoors. It must be notes that other conifers such as larch and Scots pine have a natural durability or have sapwood that is easily penetrated with preservatives.
Chapter 8, Growth and Yield Prediction gives the history of the development of the current 'yield class ' system for assessing volume production from forestry. The yield class tables used in Britain, researched and compiled by the U.K Forestry Commission have been used in Irish forests as climate and soil types were considered to be similar. (p 114) The definition of Yield class is given as 'the rate of growth in terms of the potential maximum mean annual increment per ha of volume to 7 cm top diameter, irrespective of age or culmination, or of tree species.' However it would appear that these tables were 'not intended to be applied to any individual stand' as there can be a wide variability in the correlation between top height and cumulative volume. (p 120) This has led to the ongoing development of new dynamic models which when completed should allow for better management planning of the forest resource. So it would appear that the current yield class system is only a very rough estimate of a projected yield.
Chapter 9, Managing Sitka Spruce Stands for Quality Wood outlines timber grades and silviculture practices that can produce quality timber. The main causes for degrade in Sitka spruce are a high percentage of juvenile wood, wide ring width (rate of growth), knots and knot area ratio. Spacing and thinning would appear to have most effect on the amount of juvenile wood and ring width, along with extension of the rotation to 'increase the proportion of mature wood in the log' (p 134) .It states that 'Faster growth is not necessarily better growth for all forest products. And that 'The conclusion is that raid growth in older trees does not necessarily produce poor quality wood, but plantations grown for the purpose of early harvest generally result in lower quality products because of the higher proportions of juvenile wood (Senft 2001)'.
For unthinned sites prone to windthrow the timber quality will be reduced unless the rotation length is increased. However it is pointed out that it is debatable whether longer rotations would be economically viable and if the trees would 'stand' that long - Coillte would suggest not (p135). To reduce knots it is recommended that pruning is practised. In the state forests pruning was discontinued in the 1970's to reduce costs. And prior to this pruning was generally carried out too late to improve timber quality. The Forest Service guidelines for the pruning of young (13-22 years) commercial conifer crops were issued as part of the Woodland Improvement Scheme. The following criteria would apply
?ò Trees selected for pruning must be capable of increasing their mean diameter by a factor of 2.5
?ò Stands should be of yield class 18 or more
?ò Stands must be stable with a low risk of windthrow;
?ò A minimum stand area of 0.4 ha is required
A pruning grant is available from the Forest Service which covers the cost of pruning.
The above criteria will limit pruning to highly productive sites and can not be an option in areas such as along the western seaboard. These areas will only grow low-grade timber. European Standards are being introduced to harmonise standards for whitewood throughout the EU. Sitka spruce will need to achieve the same criteria as Norway spruce from Scandinavia and continental Europe. It is expected that the demand for strength class C18 or higher will increase and lower classes will be used for lower value produce.
And on to chapter 10, Wood Uses. As a structural timber it states the following 'Although the strength properties of Sitka spruce cannot compare with lodgepole pine and Douglas fir of similar dimensions, they are still remarkably high on a strength to weight basis. Provided sawn timber does not contain an excessive number or surface area of knots, and is free of the defects associated with juvenile woods, it has a high probability of achieving at least C16 during stress grading, the standard that is expected to dominate for Irish grown Sitka spruce constructional timber in the future' (p 143). This is a lower grade than the C18 cited in the previous chapter and will therefore be 'relegated to lower value product'(p. 141).
For transmission poles only Sitka spruce that has passed a critical visual inspection and are of high density are suitable. They also need to be 10% greater in diameter to be comparable to redwood poles. Treatment with preservative is essential and creosote , chromated copper arsenate(CCA), or chromated copper borate(CCB) may be used (creosote appears to be the norm in Ireland).
The following claim is made - 'During 1993-1996 Coillte supplied Eircom with over one quarter of their annual pole requirement per anum, almost entirely Sitka spruce.' However it goes on to say 'Coillte continues to supply homegrown poles to Eircom' but it does not indicate what percentage or the tree species.
Thinnings of Sitka spruce are used widely as fencing material. It is treated with CCA and the EPA have issued most mills using this chemical with an Integrates Pollution Control licence. It must be noted that the EU have banned arsenic in wood preservatives except for a restricted number of industrial applications. The ban, to be in place by 30 June 2004, will also apply to treated wood. Arsenic is the latest substance to be added to a list regulated under the EU's 1976 chemicals' marketing and use directive The Commission proposed the ban in 2001 after scientists recommended tougher restrictions on wood preservatives containing arsenic because of its genotoxic and carcinogenic nature (FNN 84),The problems associated with absorption of preservatives by Sitka spruce were dealt with in chapter 7.
Particleboard and fibreboard are both manufactured board products involving high energy inputs and adhesives. These adhesives release volatile compounds. Chipboard and hardboard use sawmill residue such as woodchips. OSB and MDF use sawmill residue and roundwood. It is debatable whether such board manufacture could be deemed as a sustainable. For example a study of the health effects on workers employed in an OSB plant give the following results:
'A study of respiratory effects associated with exposure to methylene-diisocyanate (MDI), phenol-formaldehyde, and wood dust in an oriented strand board (OSB) factory was conducted. The cohort was comprised of 127 males, mean age 33.1 years, employed in an OSB factory. The comparisons were 165 healthy male and female workers from the same geographic area. The prevalence of respiratory symptoms such as phlegm, dyspnea, wheezing, wheezing with chest tightness, and chest tightness was significantly higher in the OSB workers than in the comparisons. The OSB workers were significantly more likely to have a history of asthma than the comparisons. The prevalence of atopy, determined from the skin prick test responses, was similar in both groups. The authors conclude that employment in the OSB factory is associated with definite effects on respiratory health. The data emphasize the importance of MDI, and possibly formaldehyde and wood dust, in producing airway dysfunction and symptoms in exposed workers in the wood products industry. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 37(4):461-465, 1995. (28 references)' Concern has also been raised with regard to persons working with manufactured board - in particular when moulding or sanding such products.
The high energy consumption is also a factor in the sustainability of the manufactured board industry. In other countries the residues are used to help power the plants but this is not the practise in Ireland, rendering us less competitive economically and less efficient environmentally. While Sitka spruce with its low density and high juvenile wood content is well suited to this process, in OSB manufacture Sitka spruce consists of only 60% of the timber used. Poplar species are also well suited for this process as is birch but these are not used in Ireland.
The closing chapter of the book is Chapter 11 Investment Analysis. This chapter lists the various methodologies in assessing the economic returns form forestry. These are very interesting and the overall impression from this chapter is that the estimated economic returns form Sitka spruce are dependant on many factors, including risk and sensitivity analysis, economic model used, and offer no absolute certainties.
It gives the internal rates of return (IRR) for Sitka spruce between 30 and 60 years, which are consistently greater for thinned stands. The optimum rotation to maximise the IRR is between 35 and 40 years for thinned stands and 35 years for unthinned stands. (Figure 11.3; p 161) This would go against the recommendations given earlier in the book of extended rotations for the production of better quality timber and for greater biodiversity. But this is the rotation practiced on the ground and one must presume that the maximisation of economic returns (according to the economic models used) are the main, if not the sole, objective of forest management. This makes the claim to practice sustainable forest management into a nonsense.
So to conclude. While it must be acknowledged that this book is very informative and a most interesting publication, it is by no means an objective study. In fact it is so biased in favour of Sitka spruce that COFORD would be well advised to withdraw this edition and reinforce its many good qualities by editing key Chapters, rather than running the danger of seeing the entire work discredited as spurious. This is particularly needed in areas relating to sequestration and effects on water quality such as acidification, where this work runs contrary to accepted scientific opinion and even to other publications from COFORD.
FNN would strongly resists the author's suggestion in the preface that this work should 'become the standard work on the species in Ireland, not only for the growers and foresters but for all those attending third level forestry courses' - at least until the work is withdrawn and scientific objectivity restored for any future editions.
Checking woods for trees
Coford and the Forest Service are establishing a national catalogue of native seeds. They would like to include seeds from privately owned woodland and invite anyone with a native/semi-natural woodland to contact: Woodlands of Ireland, c/o The Tree Council of Ireland, Cabinteely, Dublin 18. Tel: 01-2849329.
The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim features a young woodland area and a "Neighbourwood" scheme. We also run a number of courses, here is a selection of courses in 2003, for a full programme please contact the centre at 072-54338 or e-mail: email@example.com
Living Willow Structures with Greenmantle 1st and 2nd of March
An introduction to landscaping with Jan Steinberg 29th of March
Green Roofs with Jan Steinberg and Daniela Schwarz 30th of March
Woodland Management with Steven Meyen, Teagasc 26th of April
Creative Willow Course with Greenmantle 25th to 27th of April
Apple Day with the Irish Seedsavers 27th of September
Tree Seed Collection with Steven Meyen, Teagasc 4th of October
Hedge Establishment with Steven Meyen, Teagasc 29th of November
March 1 - 2
Friends of the Irish Environment Allihies Weekend, West Cork.
[Date changed from 14 February] "Environmental Rights and Social Justice". Workshops on Environmental Control and Public Health, Trade Issues, and Water. Review of ENGO strategies 2002. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org. Price: 75 euro. Concessions available.
17 August 17 - 22
Diffuse Pollution and Basin management.
September 16 - 19
13th International Salmon Habitat Workshop, Westport. County Mayo
Contact Central Fisheries Board:
6.1 Do we need a forestry tribunal?
A Eagarth??ir a chara
When launching the Finance Bill, 2003, the Minister for Finance said that, from 2004 onwards, forestry income will have to be declared in Annual Tax Returns.
He has not said that the income will be taxed but that he is trying to get a feel for the level of income before deciding whether or not to amend the forestry tax-breaks. Bearing in mind that the principal sources of income in forestry - grants and premiums, which are paid out of the Exchequer, and the small number of outlets for forestry produce - the figure could be estimated quite accurately if he really wanted to do anything quickly.
However, as pointed out on many occasions in FNN, tax avoidance is not the only forestry financial loophole that needs to be plugged. What about the Seven Million Euro lost by Coillte Teoranta from tax-based partnerships with financial institutions? The sweetheart deals enabled the financial institutions to pocket an equivalent amount of forestry tax-free profits? Incredibly, Coillte's parent department knew nothing about this and worse still considers that it should not ask questions!
Also, what about the leasing scam which enabled Investors to get the Farmer Rate of Forestry Premium? The Irish Forestry Authorities were happy to go along with it; they only consider the perpetrators to be naughty "Wide-Boys". Even though the EU Commission has known about this and other abuses since June 1999 nothing seems to be happening.
It's time for Minister Ahern to attack the financial abuses besetting forestry. When he was Minister for Social Welfare, he took decisive action against petty dole dodgers. Let's see him make a name for himself as the minister who cleaned up forestry.
If ministerial intervention does not work, the alternative seems to be a Forestry Tribunal. It is less likely that a Tribunal might be interfered with than would an Oireachtas Committee. I hasten to add that I do not consider that any such interference might come from politicians.
Le gach dea ghu??,
6.2 Support for the Native Woodland Scheme
I am very pleased for the support offered by many forestry stakeholders, including FNN, for the Native Woodland Scheme. An appreciable amount of lobbying of the Minister with responsibility for forestry, the Forest Service and other public representatives has occurred in recent weeks to retain the scheme. Your editorial in FNN 87 was heartening, notwithstanding your 'serious concerns about certain management aspects'.
Woodlands of Ireland is supporting the Forest Service in developing the technical and training infrastructure necessary to ensure the scheme runs as smoothly as possible and to input vital management information as it arises. Some of the issues of concern you raise have only arisen since the schemes implementation and are being dealt with presently. Changes have already been agreed by the Forest Service through the Native Woodland Development Group since the schemes launch, especially in relation to premium payments. Similar teething problems have arisen elsewhere with this scheme, such as in the UK, and refinement can be expected to occur for a number of years at least.
The issue of clearfelling within the scheme is the subject of debate itself - at a recent conference in the UK at which I attended, the restoration of planted native woodlands was addressed and after ten years of management practise, it is by no means an open and shut case in the UK. Each site tends to throw up its own set of management difficulties - in some situations clearfelling is entirely appropriate whilst in others, thinning over a period of time is desirable. Hence, it is difficult to legislate for every situation but general guidelines are being devised which will be incorporated in to the Forest service's Native Woodland Scheme manual.
With respect to naturalised species such as beech and sycamore it was never the case that they would be eliminated in one fell swoop. Ecologically these species can be damaging in that they outcompete native trees and shrubs and in pure, dense stands of naturally regenerated beech, can shade out the ground flora. The policy in this case is to remove all young, naturally regenerating beech and sycamore and to retain old, veteren specimens that have biodiversity and/or timber value. These will later die or will be removed later and the woodland restored, over time, to a more natural woodland status. This is in keeping with good native woodland management policy elsewhere.
As considerable resources are likely to be put into woodlands in the coming years - virtually all of it taxpayers - it is only right that the optimum result is achieved. One way to ensure this is to ensure adequate stocking levels. Though there may be uncertainty with respect to the degree of natural regeneration in woodlands in the short term, planting the appropriate mix as an option can help to offset poor regeneration, especially where wood production is also an objective. In an ideal world, natural regeneration is the preferred choice but there are considerable odds stacked against sufficient regeneration such as infrequent mast years, predation of seeds and seedlings, and grazing pressure.
With respect to herbicides, they are unfortunately necessary in situations where there is rampant rhododendron and laurel. They are also necessary as spot treatments for bracken and briar, especially in large areas that are planted. However, in the latter case it is only necessary to use them in the latter situation for no more than five years to allow the young, planted trees to get above competing vegetation.
A notable feature of the scheme is the use of plant material derived in Ireland. No material from outside the country is allowed to be planted into these woodlands. In SAC/NHAs locally-derived material is prescribed. Recent genetic studies indicate that inbreeding may be a problem in isolated woodlands, almost certainly because of fragmentation. This implies that a certain amount of external genetic material from outside the locality may in fact, beneficial.
The control of deer is a huge issue in forestry generally that is likely to get worse with time and without a national/regional policy on their control it is only possible to deal with them on a site by site basis. Fencing can be a very good control method and where access is required for vehicles this can be turned to advantage, for example, by creating open glade habitat.
The merging of the scheme with other aspects of forest policy and how it fits in with other schemes such as consultation and felling licences is an ongoing process - working out the complexities of the scheme and how its delivered has been a considerable task to date. Even where wood production is allowed, only low impact silvicultural systems are acceptable under a Limited Felling Licence.
I make the points above not to counter or dismiss concerns that are out there but to address concerns and highlight the complexities involved. In light of your acknowledged support, may I suggest that further concerns may be brought to my attention so that they can be dealt with by any of the relevant groups - technical and otherwise - involved with developing the scheme further. Further support and input from all stakeholders to this scheme - which after all, is only in its infancy - may help to develop it in a positive and visionary manner and have implications in future, way beyond the areas that fall within its immediate scope.
Finally, I would also like to reiterate what David Hickie has written; "Something positive is happening after years of neglect and inactivity."
7. ABOUT US
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