As part of Coillte’s commitment to Sustainable Forestry Management it conducted a desk based woodland history survey over the whole of its forest estate. It was found that some 27,000 ha constituted old woodland sites, that is, sites that have been continuously wooded since the first edition OS maps of 1830-1844. Subsequent survey work found that these Old Woodland Sites are of higher conservation value than plantations of recent origins, supporting a greater range of native woodland specialists. Some sites indeed may have had continuous forest cover since ancient times.
While Old Woodland Sites are of biodiversity and conservation value many are on the more fertile parts of the Coillte estate and are capable of producing good quality timber. Coillte has recognised the importance of these sites and has developed an Old Woodlands Policy which sets out guidance for conserving and enhancing their biodiversity, while at the same time maintaining their timber productive capacity. Measures have been introduced such as limiting the size of felling coupes and the use of continuous cover silvicultural systems to maintain the forest environment and planting light crowned conifers such as Scots pine, larch and Douglas fir to conserve the native ground flora. Conversion to native broadleaved woodland is also being undertaken where appropriate.
Information on Old Woodland Sites on the Coillte estate is contained in the company’s Business Area Strategic Plans