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Minister Hackett launches Forest Carbon Tool

The Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, Senator Pippa Hackett today launched Teagasc’s new Forest Carbon Tool. This online tool is a user-friendly way for existing and potential forest owners to calculate how much carbon can be removed in woodlands and highlights the important role of harvested wood products.

'This is an extremely user-friendly and free tool for new and existing forest owners and forestry professionals alike and will help them to predict the potential environmental benefits if they’re considering creating new woodlands' - Minister Hackett

The Forest Carbon tool was developed with the support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and developed by Teagasc with specialist input from FERs Ltd.

Commenting on the launch, the Minister said:

“The forest carbon tool is an excellent initiative that highlights the importance of forests and the positive impact they make in sequestering and storing carbon. This is an extremely user-friendly and free tool for new and existing forest owners and forestry professionals alike and will help them to predict the potential environmental benefits if they’re considering creating new woodlands. It is extremely versatile and can factor in livestock use on farms in agroforestry systems to modelling conifers and broadleaves on different land types and soils”.

The model indicates that mean annual sequestration rates can range from 1 to 9 tonnes of CO2 per hectare and is influenced by the species, age and soil types entered. It also highlights that all types of forestry have a key role to play in mitigating climate change. Conifer species can return high sequestration rates especially when harvested wood products are taken in account while broadleaved forests also cumulatively remove large amounts of CO2 over their lifetime.

The Minister also acknowledged the work of the “COFORD Working Group on Promotion of forestry and afforestation” and welcomed increasing awareness among all stakeholders of the positive role that sustainably managed forests can play.

The forest carbon tool takes user defined information on the forest and combines it with existing growth models to estimate carbon storage. This tool provides indicative information only and is not intended to provide definitive estimates on any particular forest. Landowners, farmers and forestry companies who are thinking of planting land can use the tool to estimate the potential volume of carbon that lands might sequester. It can be varied if they wish to model with different species types or afforestation schemes.

The Director of Teagasc Professor Gerry Boyle stated that:

“I welcome the development of this online forest carbon application which will enhance knowledge of the benefits of forests in sequestering carbon and as a significant component in addressing the challenges of climate change. The Forest Carbon Tool will also have important awareness raising and decision support functions, providing indicative data on the role of different planting options and their capacity to contribute to farm level mitigation. Carbon sequestration is one of a range of important services being provided by sustainably managed forests. These include timber production, water quality protection, landscape and biodiversity enhancement. Factors such as landowner’s objectives, species choices and forest management approaches are central to determining the specific mix of services that farm forests can provide.”

Tom Houlihan Teagasc Forestry Specialist added:

“This is the first iteration of the Forest Carbon Tool and incorporates a range of assumptions and system boundaries for the data provided. There is an ongoing need to further develop our knowledge on the impact of a range of factors such as forest types, species choices, rotation lengths and management approaches on sequestration potential. To this end, it is anticipated that updates and enhancements can be incorporated into future iterations as new data and research becomes available. We sincerely thank all who contributed to the development of this application, look forward to feedback and working with all stakeholders in the future to build on existing knowledge levels.”

The Minister concluded:

“the importance of forests and the need to expand our forests sustainably will continue to play a significant role in climate action plans. The existing Forestry Programme 2014-2020 provides a range of financial incentives in the form of grants and premiums which recognises the importance of forests and the ecosystem services they provide. I would encourage all farmers to seriously consider forestry as part of their plans on their farms this year.”

The Forestry Carbon Tool is available here on the Teagasc website