Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) can be described as a Close-to-Nature silvicultural management approach whereby a forest cover remains at all times while also allowing for the production of commercial timber. For this reason, CCF is seen as a more sustainable method of producing commercial timber compared to clear-felling, where trees are harvested all at once. This is then followed by reforestation, where the cycle continues. CCF is relatively new in Ireland but has been practised widely throughout Europe. In recent years, Coillte and private forest owners are initiating the transformation of Irish forests towards CCF.
Coillte owns and manages around half of the forests in the Dublin Mountains. When this land was first planted over 80 years ago, the population of Dublin was much smaller than it is today, and therefore there was less demand for recreational areas, such as forests. Until now, Coillte has managed the forests in this area primarily for timber production. However, as the population of Dublin city and surrounds continues to increase, the demand for outdoor recreational areas has grown.
Through Coillte’s long-term project, ‘Dublin Mountains Makeover’, an area of over 900 hectares will transition away from the traditional clearfell and reforestation approach and move towards CCF. This area includes Ticknock, the most visited of all Coillte forests in Ireland. As well as CCF, Coillte are also using a Remove and Replant (R&R) approach, whereby conifer species such as Sitka Spruce will be felled and replaced with native species such as downy birch, sessile oak, rowan, Scots pine, and holly.
Although work has already started on the Dublin Mountains Makeover (commenced in June 2020), this work will have to continue for many years to reach the objective of transitioning this large area of forests from the Clearfelling and Reforestation approach towards the nature friendly CCF.
The project’s long-term aim is to create a mosaic of diverse forest habitats that will benefit both people and nature. By using a mixture of management approaches such as CCF and R&R, this project will help to improve the resilience of the forests in the Dublin Mountains by increasing the variety of species, creating a mosaic of forest types and improving the structural and age diversity. Due to the scale of this project, it will be a slow but worthwhile journey which will result in benefits for nature in terms of biodiversity and by providing new recreational areas that will be utilised and enjoyed by many generations to come.
For more information on CCF and Coillte’s Dublin Mountains Makeover project, you can visit the links below