Pro Silva Ireland held a field visit in Knockrath Forest, County Wicklow. This was a particularly important event in terms of promoting Pro Silva outside of the Pro Silva network since Duncan Stuart and the EcoEye Team recorded some of the days discussions for the EcoEye TV programme which is a very popular TV programme in Ireland. In addition, Donal Magner, Forestry Editor for the Irish Farmers Journal wrote an article about the day which helps promote Pro Silva principles to a new audience.

Drought damage to Sitka spruce in eastern Britain and disease impacts on pine, and larch more widely, suggest that total reliance on Sitka spruce monocultures for upland forestry may prove unwise. The project re-evaluates mixed-species upland plantations which combine Sitka spruce with alternative productive conifers such as Norway spruce, Douglas fir, western hemlock, grand fir and noble fir, and touches on other potential alternatives.

The outcomes suggest that this approach could offer significant benefits of resilience to novel pests and diseases and, to a lesser extent, climate change. There are also advantages in terms of silvicultural development and ecological sustainability. The full report can be viewed on the Scottish Forestry Trust website.

Dr. Scott McG Wilson’s recent report ‘An Independent Review of Adpotion of Alternative Silvicultural Systems (ATC) in Britain’ can be viewed on the CCFG website. The report was funded by the Scottish Forest Trust and the Forestry Commission, but it is an independent study and the views expressed are those of the author. This comprehensive report includes a register of examples of CCF (called ATC in the report) throughout Britain, 30 of which have been worked up into case studies. It also investigates the challenges and issues which are hampering the wider adoption of CCF/ATC in British forests. It concludes with recommendations which cover: 1. More vigorous promotoion of CCF by FC, universities, voluntary groups and professional advisers so that forest managers are more aware of the benefits, and are encouraged to adopt CCF. 2. A need for more demonstration sites and from a wide range of contexts (location, forest composition, ownership), and the development and use of more consistent inventory and monitoring methods. 3. Grant schemes which enable and encourage the adoption of CCF. 4. Continued R & D support at both the national and regional scale with a greater emphasis on the operational and economic aspects. 5. Support and encouragement for providers of more suitable, lighter machinery, e.g. machinery rings. Also, a concerted effort to develop markets and processes which make use of timber of mixed sizes and species. 6. More CPD and in-service training courses that are relevant to CCF.

We are pleased to announce that Bill Mason was elected Chairman of the Continuous Cover Forestry Group at the AGM on 2nd May, 2012. He takes over from Phil Morgan who resigned to take up the prestigious position of President of ProSilva Europe.

Bill has been the chair of the Scottish committee of CCFG for the last four years and has extensive experience of continuous cover silviculture through his work as a silvicultural researcher with the Forestry Commission. In addition, he has gained practical experience of implementing continuous cover forestry over several decades of managing the family woodlands in Nottinghamshire.

This new book, first published in France in 2010, is now available in English. The book presents the approach to irregular silviculture developed by a group of leading French foresters and the network of research stands they have developed to monitor this type of silviculture. The network was established twenty years ago and has now collected data over fifteen years that detail the biological, economic and environmental development of stands spanning the range of species mixtures and regions across France. The network has expanded further with research stands in England, Belgium, Luxemburg and Ireland. Five new research stands in Ireland will be set up before the next growing season and plans for further espansion in Wales are underway. Download brochure or Place an Order

The Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development with responsibility for forestry in Wales, John Griffiths AM, planted a Welsh oak last Thursday to illustrate the principle of carbon sequestration and the benefit in planting new trees in Wales to capture atmospheric carbon and turn it into useful material for substitution; all this being done simply by photosynthesis using the sun’s energy.

The occasion was one of the three annual meetings of the Woodland Strategy Advisory Panel (WSAP) where our chairman, Phil Morgan, represents the group.

Water, another important ingredient required to oil the wheels of sequestration, was in such overabundance on the day that the photo opportunities pointed to reasons why our new thirst for sequestration in Wales has taken so much urgency.

What we do with our forests when we have planted the 100,000 hectares we plan to establish over the next 20 years is in question. And even more importantly what do we do with the ones we already have? We already have 303,500 hectares of woods and forests or about 14.3% of the land in Wales. Tree planting has very definite limits; additionality cannot be toped when we have reached the point of optimal land-use potential or equilibrium. There is only a very limited amount of land still to be planted with trees in Wales for additional sequestration so there may be more value in concentrating on improving the established resource. This drive for new planting may be a convenient distraction being promoted by a profession struggling to wean itself from a culture of controlling species and production cycles. Very encouragingly there were real signs during the visit to a move towards integrated systems where we gain benefits from using natural processes. There is definitely a desire to explore ways to adopt close to nature forest principles so that we grow better timber more cost effectively and provide the sort of environmental safeguards that will mitigate the effects of the rains that nearly washed the Minister away, while also increasing niche spaces for wildlife to develop greater complexity and increasing our carbon storage capacities.

Convincing a profession such as foresters that change is a good thing is hard enough. It is a different issue when convincing the public because they are the owners of the forest and are not concerned with the technical arguments their managers can argue endlessly about. Conveying the right image is all important, and if that message is wrong, it can undo the best of plans. So, if we want to make an argument for forests being guardians of carbon, we have to be clear about what we are saying and to convey the idea in the best possible way. Somehow “come and see our carbon clearfell” or “come, let me show you how we clearfell the carbon” does not go down too well at all. However, “come walk with me in our forest which is here for ever and see how the trees produce the wood to build and heat your homes and are homes for wildlife and how they keep our rivers clean” is much better but much too long and sounds like a cracked record… “Come to the Carbon Forest” has the right ring to it.