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NFI Second Cycle (2012)

The national forest estate has increased from a modest 89,000 hectares (ha) or circa 1% of the national land area in 1928, to 731,650 ha or 10.5% of the national land area by the end of 2012. During the first 85 years of the 20th century, forestry in Ireland was almost exclusively the responsibility of the State, and by 1985 forest cover had increased to approximately 411,000 ha.

The mid 1980s saw a significant increase in private forest development, with the introduction of EU-funded grant schemes, aimed at encouraging private land owners, mainly farmers, to become involved in forestry. As a result, an additional 240,000ha have been afforested since this time, with over 80% of it private planting.

The goal of the National Forest Inventory (NFI) of Ireland is to assess the current composition of and change to Ireland’s forest resource in a representative and reproducible manner. The undertaking of a NFI arose from a strategic action in the 1996 ‘Growing for the future’ (Anon, 1996) policy document for the development of the forest industry in Ireland. Data from the NFI is used to estimate carbon stocks through the calculation of forest biomass figures in Irish forests and greenhouse gas emissions associated with land-use change. The NFI was also initiated in response to demands for multi-resource information about Ireland’s forests from international and national bodies such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation/Economic Commission for Europe (FAO/ECE)

A second cycle of the NFI was carried between 2009 and 2012 in which all permanent sample plots established in the first NFI were reassessed. The field data collection began in September 2009 and was completed in December 20012. Data processing and analysis was then undertaken and completed in August 2013. This second NFI provides a way of not only assessing current forest stock but also provides the ability to assess changes in the forest estate over time through comparisons with the first NFI.