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Diversification of forest management systems in Ireland – using “marteloscope” sites to educate on new approaches


With a large number of private forests approaching thinning stage, there's now a greater need for owners to understand and control the thinning process, to realise the full value of their forests and promote a sustained level of timber mobilisation. Jonathan Spazzi, Teagasc Forestry Advisor outlines

With a large number of private forests approaching thinning stage, there is now a greater need for owners to understand and control the thinning process, to realise the full value of their forests and promote a sustained level of timber mobilisation. There is also a growing demand by forest owners for alternative management systems to complement the current clear fell/replant system. European and Irish forest policies are directed increasingly at promoting integrated management through Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF). While maintaining commercial timber harvesting, CCF retains long term forest cover enhancing forest resilience in the face of climate disruption, sustaining forest production and delivering diverse ecosystem services.

For more information see: Continuous Cover Forestry case studies

In this context, understanding the thinning selection process is important as a delay in thinning or poor practices could significantly compromise owners’ and managers’ options.

With increasing interest in CCF in Ireland coupled with a new Continuous Cover Forestry grant (available through DAFM-Woodland Improvement Scheme), new knowledge transfer tools are required for a different approach to forest management.

For more information see: Continuous Cover Forestry grant

INFOMAR

INFOMAR was developed in recent years by researchers from the European Forestry Institute (EFI). This is a software package specifically designed for use outdoors on weatherproof tablets and is a training aid used in special training forest plots called ‘marteloscopes’. The purpose is to help participants to carry out tree selection in the forest and to visualize and demonstrate, through the use of a touch screen tablet, the effects of different thinning decisions on tree growth, forest development and biodiversity.

In 2018, the Teagasc Forestry Development Department (FDD) invited EFI foresters to Ireland to assess the application of INFOMAR in Irish forests. During 2020 internal Teagasc funding help to adopt this new KT/communication tool. As part of this initiative, and in collaboration with Coillte and Pro Silva Ireland (PSI), a new marteloscope plot was installed by Teagasc in Curraghchase Forest Park, County Limerick, with key technical support from the EFI.

 

This plot, together with other plots installed by Coillte, joins a network of more than 100 similar training plots across Europe. For more information see https://integratenetwork.org/demo-sites/

The new Curraghchase marteloscope was used during 2020 by groups of forest owners participating in a new blended virtual training course on CCF broadleaf management developed and delivered by Teagasc forestry advisor Jonathan Spazzi. The site also hosted a new in-service training programme for Teagasc forestry advisors and researchers on how best to incorporate this new tool into existing advisory and training methodologies for forest owners and a range of other user groups.

Future Plans

There are exciting plans for this initiative in 2021 following the installation of two additional marteloscope plots in Teagasc Oak Park, Carlow, during late 2020. These new facilities will be used for a range of training programmes targeting forest owners, foresters, forestry students and other stakeholders wishing to upskill or learn more about sustainable forest management.

Derek Gibson (FDD technician) numbering and measuring each tree in a marteloscope plot under development in the Forest of Teagasc Oak Park, Carlow.

The use of marteloscopes  has great potential as an important knowledge transfer tool for owners to learn about forest management in a more effective way and support the wider adoption of sustainable forest management. In turn this will enhance owners’ confidence in their ability and competence to manage their forest by developing the necessary skills to choose the most appropriate management systems to sustain forest production and deliver multiple ecosystem services.

For more on Teagasc Forestry click here