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Transformation of Sitka spruce stands to Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF): Synergies and Trade-offs


Most of Ireland’s forests are even-aged plantations managed under a clear-felling silvicultural system. However, interest in alternative management options is increasing, including Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF). CCF can result in a more diverse forest structure with trees of different ages, sizes, and species. A number of forest owners in Ireland have started to transform their forests to CCF; a long-term process that requires plenty of silvicultural guidance and research. Further research is also needed to investigate the broader impacts of CCF on forest ecosystem services and functions. Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM), the ContinuFOR project will provide data on the CCF transformation process that can help navigate a pathway to more sustainable forest management in Ireland and internationally. The project is led by Prof Aine Ni Dhubhain (University College Dublin) with partners in TeagascForest, Environmental Research & Services (FERS), and here at the Forest Ecology and Global Change Lab at Maynooth University. ContinuFOR research at the Forest Ecology and Global Change Lab focusses on investigating the ecosystem services associated with CCF and understanding the productivity of naturally regenerating and underplanted seedlings in CCF stands. See here for more info. 

Improved mapping, monitoring, and conservation of Ireland’s ancient woodlands


In Ireland, ancient forests are defined as areas that have been continuously wooded since at least the 17th century. These remnant ancient woodlands are now a rare and fragmented feature of a once heavily forested landscape. Despite their substantial environmental and cultural significance, major gaps in our understanding of their distribution and conservation status remain. This PhD fellowship (Thomas Leniston) aims to improve the identification, mapping, and protection of ancient woodlands, focusing on the province of Leinster. The fellowship is co-funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, ICARUS, and the Department of Biology, Maynooth University. This interdisciplinary project combines digitization of archival maps, review of historic literature, and palaeoecological approaches to develop a framework for assessing ancient woodlands that can be rolled out to all regions in Ireland. 

Natural colonisation of forest on post-industrial peatlands: implications for ecosystem services


© Copyright Brian Nelson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Globally, wetland ecosystems make a disproportionally high contribution to ecosystem services. Yet, up to 50% of all wetlands globally have been lost or degraded since 1900 due to human activities. For example, Ireland’s intact peatland area has declined dramatically in the last 100 years, largely due to industrial scale harvesting of peat. However, the last two decades has seen increased recognition of the need to restore and rehabilitate peatlands in Ireland. Where industrial extraction of peat has ceased, without intervention, some parts of these degraded bog ecosystems can rapidly transition to wooded landscapes due to natural regeneration of fast-growing native trees. This PhD fellowship (Meshack Moranga) is co-funded by the Irish Research Council and the Environmental Protection Agency. The objective of the project is to assess the factors facilitating the natural regeneration of native forests on post-extraction peatlands and impacts on ecosystem services. Earth Observation techniques are also being used to quantify the area of natural forest development on post-extraction peatlands in Ireland over the last two decades. Ultimately, this project aims to inform future peatland rehabilitation approaches in Ireland and beyond.

Future Forests:
Understanding the effect of tree diversity in planted forests under a rapidly changing climate

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Increasing tree diversity in planted forests can enhance ecosystem services such as wood production and soil carbon sequestration. Ireland is currently missing its decarbonisation targets and ambitious afforestation plans form a major part of Irelands climate mitigation strategy. Diversification of Irish forests is also a key component of national forest policy. However, we know little about how tree diversity-ecosystem function relationships will materialize under future climates. Understanding interactions between diversity and climate change will aid the design of climate-smart forests. Using a novel design that utilizes open-source micro-controller technologies, Future Forests will initiate the first field-based experiment to examine tree diversity-ecosystem function relationships over a gradient of predicted elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature conditions. This experiment will provide a platform for testing mechanisms controlling responses of tree monocultures and mixtures to climate change. Future Forests will combine field-based, environmental growth chamber, and modelling approaches that explore diversity-mediated responses of trees to elevated carbon dioxide, warming and drought. Future Forests is funded by Science Foundation Ireland

Future Proofing Senegal's Great Green Wall

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Across Africa’s Sahel region, climate change has exacerbated desertification and heightened food, water, and energy insecurity, placing major barriers to sustainable development. The Great Green Wall (GGW) is one of the world’s largest and most ambitious land restoration initiatives that spans 8,000 km across the Sahel. The GGW is a broad initiative that encompasses a diverse set of sustainable land management approaches (including reforestation) that seek to restore landscapes and improve livelihoods. In Senegal, largescale reforestation activities are ongoing and >18 million trees have been planted. However, this represents less than 10% of the targeted restoration area, and replanting programmes have been beset with high tree mortality rates and a lack of rigorous monitoring data. “Future Proofing Senegal's Great Green Wall” is a collaborative project between Maynooth University and the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA). The project is funded by the Irish Research Council and Irish Aid

The project will:
• Use state-of-the-art plant environmental growth chamber experiments to identify tree species that are most resilient to Senegal’s future climate conditions.
• Use participatory approaches to engage with local communities and build capacity for monitoring GGW reforestation and ecosystem service delivery in Northern Senegal.

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