Forestry Focus


Accurate and up-to-date information on forest resources is required for the sustainable management of forests. Today, multi-resource forest inventories are carried out periodically to gather information on the many different attributes of Ireland’s forests. Data gathered provides essential information to help with decision making on many different levels including policy formation, strategic planning, day-to-day operations and monitoring the condition of forests.

Forest inventories are carried out at two levels:

  • National forest inventory – assesses the attributes of the national forest estate;
  • Local forest inventory – determines forest resources at local level


Until recent times national forest inventories had the objective of forecasting the timber supply to determine the annual allowable cut (volume harvested) and to provide data for planning the location of processing mills. With the introduction of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), however, the parameters of the National Forest Inventory (NFI) have been greatly expanded to include, not only data on the area and species composition of the growing stock but also, for the first time, information on biodiversity, forest health and vitality, carbon content and soil type, for the entire forest estate.

The forest statistics and other information produced by the NFI are widely used in:

  • Forest policy making at national and international levels
  • Regional and national forest management planning
  • Planning of forest industry investments
  • Assessing sustainability of forestry and in forest certification
  • Evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions and changes in carbon storage
  • Research

Also many international statistics (e.g. FAO and Eurostat), processes (e.g. Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, MCPFE) and agreements (e.g. Kyoto Protocol) require information about the state of the national forest resources.

Users of the inventory data include the forestry and timber industries, organisations concerned with nature conservation, ecology and biodiversity, those working to protect our forests and woodlands from pests and diseases, government and non-government agencies formulating forestry policies and anyone interested in finding out more about Ireland’s forests and woodlands.

The 2007 National Forest Inventory was the first multi-resource inventory carried out on the national forest estate. It will act as a baseline to monitor changes in the nation’s forests and will be updated every 5-years.

The full results of the first NFI were published by the Forest Service in 2007. The report provides a detailed account of the forest area, forest composition, forest structure, growing stock, deadwood, carbon stock, forest health and vitality, non-tree vegetation and lichens, and other site conditions.

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. Data processing and analysis was 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.

The full reports can be accessed at:  National Forest Inventory Publications


Local forest inventories are generally carried out by, or on behalf of, forest owners/managers. Once focused on the attributes of the growing stock (volume and value) today Sustainable Forest Management and forest certification require that they also include an assessment of the non-timber resources such as wildlife habitats, cultural heritage etc.


While forest inventory data is used for many different purposes its most common use is to assess the volume of the growing stock and to predict future yields. Forecasts of harvestable timber supply is central to the economic management of the forest area, be it a private property or the national forest estate.

National forecasts provide essential information on the location of future timber supply which is necessary for planning the location of processing mills. Equally, knowing the amount of timber available over time allows advanced planning to ensure that the capacities of the harvesting and transport fleets and also the mills are appropriate to the supply.

A national forecast of roundwood timber supply for the island of Ireland has recently been produced by Henry Phillips and published by COFORD. The report is available at:

All Ireland Roundwood Production Forecast 2016-2035