Ireland's Native woodlands: A summary based on The National Survey of Native Woodlands

  • John Cross National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 7, Ely Place, Dublin 2.
Keywords: survey, native woodlands, classsification, characteristics


A summary of the national survey of native woodlands, undertaken between 2003 and 2008, along with a preliminary survey of possible ancient and long-established woodland, is presented. The total area of native woodland was ca. 85,000 ha, the woodlands were unevenly distributed geographically and individual woodlands were small (average size 6.6 ha) and highly fragmented. They showed considerable diversity in terms of species complement and vegetation type and the woods were classified into 4 major types – sessile oak, ash, alder and birch – and 22 sub-types. Native woodlands showed considerable structural variation, both vertical and horizontal, depending principally on the canopy species, management and grazing regime. Regeneration of most species was generally poor. Many woods are currently unmanaged and there was little timber of merchantable quality. A conservation assessment found that the highest scoring sites were concentrated in the west and in Wicklow. Invasive alien species, especially sycamore, beech, rhododendron and cherry laurel, and inappropriate grazing regimes (under- or over-grazing) were found to be the main threat. The importance and value of our native woodlands is discussed and the desirability of combining conservation with timber production is highlighted.
How to Cite
Cross, J. (2012) “Ireland’s Native woodlands: A summary based on The National Survey of Native Woodlands”, Irish Forestry, pp. 73–95. Available at: (Accessed: 30September2023).