Forests 4 Future
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We are delighted to announce that on December 10th, we will be hosting our first live webinar with The Useless Project. More details to be announced soon - this will be a VIP Invite only event and we would love to give our subscribers first access, so save the date and keep an eye out for your personal invitation!
This is an exciting time of the year for tree lovers, as these are the best months to get planting trees - November to March. We were delighted to have the chance to talk to Ciaran Fallon director of Coillte Nature and also a director of Nature Trust
Q: How did you become involved in Forestry? I had the good fortune of growing up near an old woodland which became a wild playground for every kid in the neighbourhood. I recently read research that found that exposure to nature in early childhood shapes environmental attitudes in later life and this does not surprise me one bit. As I grew up I hiked, mountain biked and rock climbed in and around forests in Europe and later as an adult in the US and this made me begin to think of forestry as a career. Ten years ago I was finishing a piece of research for the Environmental Protection Agency on environmental governance in Ireland and I heard Coillte was looking for someone with my background and skills and I jumped at the opportunity and haven’t looked back since. Q: What changes have you seen in the Coillte in recent years as regards sustainability? For me the most dramatic change in recent years has been the rise of the carbon agenda. COP21 in Paris in December 2015 was a watershed moment as it really put forests on the global climate change agenda for the first time. In the spring of 2016 I was involved in organising Ireland’s first national conference on forestry and carbon and for many attendees it was their first engagement with the subject. It is sometimes hard to believe all that has happened in the interim. While the basic processes of carbon sequestration and storage in forests are well understood, the science is still evolving. This morning I spent time reading a paper that has just been published on management of carbon in forests on peatlands in the Scottish highlands and throughout the world forestry researchers are grappling with similar tricky carbon questions. Above all, what is very clear is that there is a need for afforestation throughout the world. Ireland has its own afforestation targets to achieve, so there is much to do to deliver increased levels of carbon sequestration in the years to come.
Q: Can you tell us about Coillte Nature?
Coillte Nature is the part of Coillte (The Irish Forestry Agency) that manages large nature restoration projects and drives the native woodland afforestation programme. Coillte has a long record of activity in this area and Coillte Nature was established by our Board two years ago to drive-on the delivery of large climate change and biodiversity projects. It is a not-for-profit venture and combines funding which it receives as part of the Coillte Group with external private and public funding sources to deliver large scale projects on the ground. Ultimately these projects are enabled using the resources and contractors which Coillte has in place to manage the overall Coillte estate.
Q: Can Coillte take any learning from Coillte Nature as regards species of tree planted and other biodiversity/ sustainability initiatives?
In forestry it really comes down to the maxim; the right tree, in the right place for the right reason. We are lucky to have a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing and throughout Coillte, we learn from each other on new approaches to silviculture and biodiversity improvement.
Q: What plans has Coillte nature for improving biodiversity in Irish forests in the coming years?
We are planning to afforest 400 hectares of new native woodlands through a mixture of seeding and planting. This is being done through a new not-for-profit CLG which allows us to combine public and private finance to buy bare land for native woodland afforestation and through an agreement we have with Bord na Mona to establish new native woodlands on some of their high and dry cut-away bogs. We are restoring over 2,000 hectares of western blanket bog by a mixture of rewetting and restructuring existing forests to create new future resilient forests. We are also taking two more major biodiversity enhancement projects in partnership with the NPWS which are funded by the EU Commission and we are teaming up with Trinity College and UCD to do a major piece of research on payments for ecosystem services. So really busy, but it’s all great stuff.
Image Source Coillte Nature Wild Western Peatlands Q: What do you think of research that shows there is a wood wide web of fungi that allows trees to share nutrients and other evidence that trees can 'communicate' (via chemicals they release) for example when they are under threat by pests?
It is amazing - actually Suzanne Samard from University of British Colombia has been publishing papers on this topic since the 1990s. Great to see her now doing TED talks and publishing books for a wider audience.
Q: Who or what most inspires you to make positive changes for the environment ?
What inspires me is that fleeting sense of awe and wonder you sometimes experience in nature (if you open yourself up to it). A sense that we are a tiny part of something beautiful, extraordinary and timeless.
I am by basically an optimistic person and I believe our species has proven its capacity to do quite extraordinary things when we really ‘tilt’ at them. I think there is a real awakening underway and we are now engaging with the reality of living within the limits of our planet and this makes me hopeful and inspires me to take action.
Q: What 'one change' would you like to see people take for a greener world?
Simply understanding ourselves as part of nature and not above nature. Fundamentally all our sustainability issues have their roots in a ‘dominance’ mindset. If we truly respect and value our natural environment and see ourselves as part of it, lots of good things will begin to happen, they already are.
Q: What has been a change that you have made to live more sustainably?
I use my car as a last resort, I have cut down on eating meat and I don’t buy stuff I don’t need. Q. Any advice for people looking to get involved in planting trees to help with the climate crisis and biodiversity loss?
If you have the space (and you don’t need much) plant a tree and if you have the means support tree planting at scale. (You might consider www.naturetrust.ie)
Link to nature trust video https://www.naturetrust.ie/portfolio
There are lots of ways that you can get involved in tree planting - in your local communities, schools, your own garden or you can sponsor a tree. We have lots of great information and suggestions about tree planting organisations on our GreenFridays4Future website.
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