Sir, – It is a shame that a group of well-meaning enthusiasts could not do their homework and learn just how much good the forestry sector is doing for their (and indeed our collective) cause before choosing to disrupt Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton's address to the recent Forestry Industries Ireland conference on forestry and climate change held at the Botanic Gardens ("Bruton's speech on forestry interrupted by Extinction Rebellion", News, July 8th).
To cite just a few facts: non-native (exotic) conifers, especially Sitka spruce, sequester more carbon, and at a greater rate, than do native species; the planting of monocultures in Ireland has long since fallen out of favour; Sitka spruce comprises just 52 per cent of the entire Irish forest estate, and for the last 20 years broadleaves have made up nearly 30 per cent of all new planting; Europe’s forests absorb 40 per cent of all European CO2 emissions; and a vibrant forestry sector that manages our forests responsibly is a vital component in our attempts to address the climate emergency. Sustainable forest management is a significant part of the solution.
Irish forestry is a remarkable success story – to go from less than 1 per cent to nearly 11 per cent forest cover in just 100 years is no mean feat, not to mention the 12,000 jobs, many in depressed rural areas, that the industry supports – but it remains imperative that we increase our planting programme with the mix of tried and tested species, both native and exotic, that thrive here.
While no proponent of forestry would ever suggest that plantations comprising predominantly exotic conifers contain as much biodiversity as native woodland, the common criticism that coniferous forests are “green deserts” is entirely false – in truth they are constantly evolving and full of life, including the many largely unseen invertebrates that reside in the canopy and which are an important ingredient in the food chain.
We all share a common aim, and rather than argue about the colour of the fabric on the deck chairs that members of the Extinction Rebellion movement wish to rearrange, they should join with us to divert the course of the climate emergency Titanic before it is too late. – Yours, etc,
PEFC (Ireland) CLG,