Foraois | Reforesting Ireland

The land of the "Forest People"

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Trees Planted

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Tonnes CO2

Project Summary

Ireland was once the most forested country in Europe. Today it has just 11% tree cover, only 2% of which is native forest. Working with a local partner Hometree our Reforesting Ireland project seeks to reforest and rewild a 60 hectare property in an area that currently has no wild forests.

Project Timeline

Autumn 2017

The project is launched to reforest degraded agricultural land in County Claire, Ireland.

Spring 2020

Our biggest batch of Irish trees, a total of 4000 native saplings, is planted at our project area.

The Ecosystem

Tree species

At our Reforesting Ireland project we plant Scarlett willow (Salix alba), goat willow (Salix caprea), grey willow (Salix cinerea), osier willow (Salix viminalis), alder (Alnus glutinosa), downy birch (Betula pubescens), European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), common hawthorn (Cratageus monogyna), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), holly (Ilex aquifolium), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), common oak (Quercus robur) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea).

Priority species

Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), pine marten (Martes martes), brown hare (Lepus europaeus) are all present in the area.

Saplings in a wheelbarrow ready for planting
We plant a variety of native species, including these common holly

The Land of the Forest People

The Irish, descendants of the Gaels, which means forest people, have worshipped trees longer than they’ve believed in God.

Centuries of deforestation for agriculture and timber have reduced Ireland’s once extensive native woodlands to small, isolated remnants. Old native woodlands can still to be found in areas of thin soils unsuitable for agriculture, but today, the country is known for its landscape of open, green pastures instead.  

A woman sands in the planting area at our reforesting Ireland project.
Ireland is the land of the Gaels, which means forest people

A Threatened Habitat

What makes this ecosystem special?

Ireland's native woodlands are mostly made up of colourful broadleaf trees like oak, ash, alder and birch. A healthy, thriving forest provides vital habitat for a diversity of flora and fauna, including great spotted woodpecker, narrow-leaved helleborine, wood millet, red squirrels and Ireland's rarest native mammal, the pine marten.

A lush forest with a carpet of wildflowers
Native Irish woodlands are characterised by a lush colourful carpet of wildflowers

The Threats

The Gaels, London and the Empire

Ireland was once the most densely forested country in Europe. Sadly, these rich woodlands were decimated by the English and never replaced. Ireland's woodlands were exploited for the construction of English cathedrals, the reconstruction of London after the Great Fire and British naval fleets between 1600s – 1800s. The few remnants of woodland that persisted were often left in the hands of English owned estates and any Irishman caught foraging among these them would be tortured or even executed. This culminated in a deep-seated fear and suspicion of trees, which can still be felt across Ireland today.

In response to legal requirements to reduce carbon emissions, the Irish government is primarily funding the planting of non-native conifer monocultures. These monoculture forests cause soil acidification, create excess sediment in rivers and are often devoid of wildlife. These lucrative plantations also price small farmers off the land.

Uniform and even aged Sitka Spruce trees cover the landscape
Non-native conifer plantations are no substitute for native woodlands
Heart Image

the team behind the project

Team Member

Matt Davies, Mossy Earth

Team Member

Matt Smith, Forest Engineer at HomeTree

Team Member

Mitch Corbett, Forest Engineer at HomeTree

Sources & further reading

Peer Reviewed Research Section
  1. *The potential CO2 sequestered in vegetation and soil in British broadleaf forests over a period of 100 years - Science DirectExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  2. Forestry in Ireland: the Reforestation of a Deforested Country - The Forestry SourceExternal link
  3. Can the mid-Holocene provide suitable models for rewilding the landscape in Britain? - Bournemouth UniversityExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  4. Pine marten (Martes martes) distribution and abundance in Ireland: a cross-jurisdictional analysis using non-invasive genetic survey techniques - Science DirectExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  5. The reintroduction of the white-tailed sea eagle to Ireland: People and wildlife - Science DirectExternal linkIcon Peer Review
  6. Costing the Earth - BBC RadioExternal link