Coillte is the Irish state-owned commercial forestry management entity, controlling around 7% of the national territory. Almost all of the trees planted on the company’s estate are non-native conifers, including Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce, Lodgepole Pine and others. Many of its sites in the West would be considered near ‘dead zones’ in terms of their very poor species diversity, both flora and fauna. We all know of sites where the sun does not penetrate to the monoculture plantation floor and where birdlife and mammal life is low in diversity.
In a remarkable move, however, Coillte became involved in an EU-Life Natura 2000 project back in 2006, with the aim of restoring small bits of its estate as priority native woodland habitats. This week, I attended the two-day conference, which closed this four-year, € 2.6 m project.
On the second day, attendees visited Clonbur Wood, on the Galway – Mayo border. Various Coillte personnel introduced us to the interesting aspects of the wood, which is associated with limestone pavement. Large scale removal of non-native trees has taken place and native species planted in their place. There is real hope that this site, of almost 300 ha, can return to being a wonderful, diverse native wood.
Native trees present include Ash, Hazel, Birch, with some Oak, Juniper and Yew. Animals present include fox, badger, pine marten, red squirrel, lesser horseshoe bat and otter.
As one part of my three- and five-day walking tours in Mayo, I bring small groups on to Coillte managed lands. In 2010, I will be adding this wonderful new amenity at Clonbur, where walkers can see first hand this impressive project to re-establish a native limestone pavement woodland in this part of the West of Ireland.
See here for information on Clonbur Wood.
For the EU website on the LIFE Project, see here.