Forestry Field Trip: Continuous Cover Forestry

Transition Monaghan members Liam Murtagh and Dermot McNally recently attended a Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) field day in Navan, Co Meath, Ireland. CCF, also known as Close to Nature Forestry is rightly hailed as the panacea to the ecological pitfalls of conventional forestry which is dominated by even aged monocultures managed by clear fell.

The event, organised by the North East Forestry Group (covering Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath) enabled woodland owners to see and understand the concept as it applies in a working forest. The methods and advantages were explained in simple layman’s terms by Forestry Consultant, Pádraig O’ Tuama, formerly of Coilte, who has vast experience in this type of forest management.

Vast reams of academic research has been produced on the topic but O’Tuama explained the primary concepts underlying the system. He discussed the rationale behind the CCF selection process for felling operations at a first thinning stage which differs from other management systems. Under CCF a mix of tree age, tree species and sizes are encouraged whereas in clear fell a single aged monoculture crop is managed to produce a more uniform size for complete clear fell at the end necessitating systematic replanting by hand. Where CCF is implemented successfully it can remove the need for the cost of replanting (as this function is left to natural regeneration), it provides more regular income as small regular interventions are made, the environment is never decimated (as under total clear fell), it provides diversity of species and hence resilience to disease.

sherlogs firewood

However CCF can be challenging to implement in some circumstances – fast growing Sitka Spruce plantations can be problematic. And in some cases natural regeneration may need to be supplemented with underplanting of desired crops. O’Tuama argued that CCF offers more resilience to wind damage than traditional methods. Anyone interested in learning more about the CCF system should look online at the ProSilva Ireland website where a comprehensive book is available for €10. ProSilva is a pan European organisation dedicated to promoting better forestry management that is both ecologically and economically sound. They run regular field trips in Ireland and abroad.

Finally on a broader note of global trends in forestry it was pointed out that the clear fell system is meeting increasing resistance across the world and indeed that forestry certification bodies are pushing forest owners to consider CCF to achieve a more harmonious balance between the needs of mankind and nature.

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