The potential availability of land for afforestation in the Republic of Ireland.

  • Niall Farrelly Teagasc, Mellows Centre, Athenry, Co. Galway.
  • Gerhardt Gallagher 53 Upper Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Keywords: Silvopastoralism, multifunctionality, montado, wood-pasture.


The Irish Government reiterated its commitment to expand the productive forest area to 18% of the land area by 2046 (DAFM 2014) in order to maintain a sustainable processing sector with its many additional benefits. The process of increasing afforestation rates may also offer significant scope to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially from agriculture, which is expected to expand production to cater for increased demand for food and fibre. The challenges of managing multiple conflicting land use objectives (aimed at both increasing food and fibre production as well as trying to maintain conservation values) and their effect on land availability for forestry expansion are examined in this paper. An assessment was made of the land resource available for afforestation and the related opportunities and constraints are discussed. Results indicate that 4.65 million ha of land in Ireland are potentially suitable for forestry; of this 896,880 ha are subject to national and EU designations where existing habitat conservation is prioritised. Of the remaining 3.75 M ha, 2.42 M ha are classed as productive agricultural land, likely to be the main focus of agricultural expansion. The remaining 1.3 M ha, classed as being marginal for agriculture, shows significant scope for afforestation. To assist in the achievement of forestry targets, it may be necessary to consider all sources of land, including a significant area currently under-utilised (unenclosed land), more than a third of the target planting area (c. 178,000 ha), as well as the development of native woodlands that may also fulfil conservation and carbon sequestration objectives.
How to Cite
Farrelly, N., & Gallagher, G. (2015). The potential availability of land for afforestation in the Republic of Ireland. Irish Forestry. Retrieved from

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