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The "marteloscope” training network

Enhancing forest owners’ confidence and ability in managing diverse forests


Land owners often plant and manage forests for multiple reasons such as timber production, biodiversity enhancement, water protection, recreation and well-being. A mix of forest management systems is therefore required to cater for the diversity of forest types, site conditions and the owner’s objectives. Both national and European forest policies are increasingly directed towards the promotion of diverse and integrated management. The aim is to enhance forest resilience in the face of climate disruption, to sustain forest production while delivering diverse ecosystem services to society. 

As part of this effort, systems such as Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF), can enable, on suitable sites, commercial timber harvesting while permanently retaining a forest cover. Discover forest owners' experience from this range of recent CCF case studies

In this context, Teagasc's Forestry Development Department has developed a programme of "marteloscope" workshops. Marteloscopes provide a new knowledge transfer initiative to enhance owners’ confidence and ability in managing a diverse range of forests. The main aim is to equip forest owners with the necessary skills to choose the most appropriate management systems to meet their objectives and to help integrate and enhance both the production and biodiversity value of each forest.

What is a marteloscope?

A marteloscope is a specially prepared forest plot, ranging 0.4-1 hectare in size, which is commonly used across Europe for training purposes.

The name comes from the French “martelage” meaning “hammering”. This refers to the way traditionally trees were marked for thinning across Europe by using a purpose-built hammering tool. In essence, a marteloscope plot is an outdoor-classroom forest facility for training participants in tree selection and tree marking. It facilitates "learning-by-doing".

The European Forest Institute (EFI) has, in recent years, further enhanced marteloscope plot usage with specially designed software integrated into touch screen tablets. These are used by owners while in the forest. Since then, the EFI has facilitated the development of a network of over 150 marteloscope training plots across Europe. The Teagasc Forestry Development Department has partnered with the EFI, in collaboration with Coillte and Pro Silva Ireland, to make this resource available in Ireland to forest owners / foresters / students and other interested groups.

For each marteloscope plot, every tree is numbered, measured and its timber and biodiversity values estimated. All the information is then inputted into the tablet-based software.

The training plotsINFOMAR software loaded onto a weatherproof-grade tablet

This valuable information is then used by participants to carry out thinning simulations and to analyse the impact of different choices both on indicative financial return and biodiversity potential. Exercises almost always lead to active group discussions, thereby facilitating valuable peer-to-peer learning. To date in Ireland, we have a total of nine marteloscope plots, three installed by Teagasc and six by Coillte.

Teagasc has installed one plot in county Limerick in Curragh Chase forest in partnership with Coillte and two further plots in the Teagasc Research Centre in Oak Park, Co Carlow. The latter includes a conifer and a broadleaf plot to cater for varying participants' needs. It is envisaged that, given available resources and demand, further plots will be developed in other locations in the coming years.

The training plots are available to forest owners for one-day forest workshops. They are also utilised as part of a more in-depth training course.

One farmer's experience

Donagh O’Grady is a progressive, active farmer and hands-on forest owner who attended one of the Teagasc marteloscope courses earlier this year in county Limerick.

Donagh said, "For me, the course content and presentation were excellent and gave me a much better understanding of many issues around forest management including production and biodiversity. ... I now have the confidence to go into the forest and pick out the better trees. ... I think for those owners growing timber, a course like this is absolutely invaluable. ... The practical day in the forest was particularly enjoyable and informative."

Further information

View of the two marteloscope plots in Oak Park forest used for forest owners training: