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The new “marteloscope” training network

Jonathan Spazzi, Teagasc Forestry Development Officer explains the new “marteloscope” training network: enhancing forest owners’ confidence and ability in managing diverse forests. He defines “marteloscope”, describing the plots, what the course entails and a farmer gives his experience of it here

Landowners plant forests for a wide range of reasons. These include income diversification, timber production, carbon sequestration, protection of water quality,  protection/enhancement of biodiversity, creation of woodland amenities and improved work-life balance, to mention a few. In recent years, interest in planting a diverse range of forests has been steadily growing, including interest in native woodlands and the adoption of “close-to-nature” management options.

A balance mix of forest management systems is required to cater for the diversity of forest types, site conditions and, in particular, owner’s objectives that are encountered. Recent developments in European and national forestry policy are also directed at promoting diverse and integrated management as a means of enhancing forest resilience in the face of climate disruption, sustaining forest production and delivering diverse ecosystem services. As part of this effort, novel systems, such as Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF), can enable, on suitable sites, commercial timber harvesting while permanently retaining a forest cover.

For a range of recent CCF case studies see the following link: CCF case studies

In this context, the Teagasc Forestry Development Department will be rolling out a new programme of “marteloscope” workshops in 2022. 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 from 0.4ha to 1ha 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 Plots

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 both a conifer plot 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.

View of the two new marteloscope plots in Oak Park forest that will be used for forest owners training from January 2022 

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.

What the course entails

The course, currently available to broadleaf forest owners is designed as a blended programme. It takes place over a number of weeks and consists of a number of facilitation-style virtual meetings, video tutorials and interactive exercises. A forest workshop in a marteloscope plot provides an end-of-course validation. The course encourages participants to explore and develop awareness of their woodland, carry out practical exercises, practice selection skills on their own trees and to measure, learn and share results with their peer group through a forum platform.

Some of the picture shared by participants on the forum platform as part of the new blended training course

A 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”.

Despite Covid restrictions, 4 successful workshops were organised in recent months. The Forestry Development Department will be increasing the marteloscope training activity with a number of workshops already scheduled in 2022, primarily for forest owner groups but also including consultant foresters and forestry students.  

For further information contact jonathan.spazzi@teagasc.ie 

The Teagasc Forestry Department issues an article on a Forestry topic every Friday here on Teagasc Daily 

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