Prior to the year 2000 research on biodiversity in Irish forests was largely confined to individual studies of native woodland habitat. Very little was known about the ecology of plantation forests and their associated flora and fauna; also scientific data on the effects of establishing plantation forests on native habitats was largely unknown nor indeed was the contribution that these forests make to the biodiversity of the landscape.
A call for proposals by COFORD in association with the EPA resulted in the first major project on forest biodiversity being established in 2001 called BioForest. Completed over a period of 5 years the project built capacity and expertise in forest biodiversity research in Ireland and provided solid practical recommendations on how to enhance biodiversity in plantation forests, many of which have been incorporated into policy and guidelines.
On completion of the BioForest project, research on forest biodiversity continued with the PLANFORBIO Programme and an associated project called FUNCTIONALBIO, again funded by Coford. Both built on the work of BioForest and have provided further insights into the biodiversity of the forests created under the national afforestation programme.
The BioForest project, funded by the EPA and COFORD, was established with the aim of gathering much-needed basic information on biodiversity in Irish plantation forests. This large scale project was structured as three smaller projects, each addressing a separate aspect of forest biodiversity: biodiversity of afforestation sites, biodiversity at different stages of the forest cycle and experimental methods to enhance biodiversity in plantation forests. The final report of the project is titled Biodiversity in Irish Plantation Forests (BioForest).
PLANFORBIO is a research programme on forest biodiversity comprising four individual research projects, with over-arching objectives aimed at improving our understanding of flora and faunal diversity in Ireland’s forest estate.
Funded by COFORD and involving a multi-disciplinary team of scientists from UCC, TCD and UCD it builds on the work of the BioForest project and will ultimately lead to recommendations on ways to manage different forest types for biodiversity conservation and enhancement.
Further information and results from the PLANFORBIO programme are available through the following links:
The FUNCTIONALBIO project which is closely associated with the PLANFORBIO Programme, is studying the biodiversity associated with the functional aspects of forest ecosystems. The diversity of fungi, soil microarthropods and nematodes is being studied to gain an understanding of the workings of the forest ecosystem with regard to decomposition and nutrient cycling. Parasitoid wasps are also being studied as representatives of the above-ground communities as they have an important role to play in population stability and reducing pest outbreaks.
The project is being undertaken by scientists from University College Dublin and the University of Limerick with funding provided by COFORD.
Further information at: Fungal diversity in Irish forests