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artful eco workings that cycle through: Close-to-Nature continuous cover forestry, experimental film-making, the eco-humanities field (deep ecology, ecocriticism, ecosophy, ecofeminism), writing & forest policy development; by cathy fitzgerald, visual culture, ncad, ireland

Not quite a year ago I was putting up a notice online for ProSilva Ireland’s website (I help look after their online communications) about Ireland’s forest research organisation COFORD. COFORD was asking public and private landowners who were managing their forests using Close-to-Nature methods (this term is more recognised in Europe but it gives an important emphasis of the overall strategy behind this new type of forest management) or also known as low impact silviculture systems (LISS)-continuous cover methods, to list themselves on a new database as part of a new survey of changing forest methods in Ireland.

‘The COFORD Low Impact Silvicultural Systems (LISS) Project* commenced in 2010 and is conducting research into the practice of LISS / Continuous Cover Forestry across Ireland.  Amongst other objectives, the project is attempting to estimate the area of woodland in Ireland managed under such systems and to establish a database of such forests in Ireland This database will provide a summary of the techniques being used to convert stands to LISS / Continuous Cover and the responses of the stands (i.e. stability; regeneration, biodiversity etc.) to these interventions. It is intended that a sample of forests identified in this survey will be visited and more detailed information on stand properties and LISS interventions recorded.’

As our forest site is barely 2.5 acres I was unsure whether I would be laughed at for wanting to list our Hollywood forest on the database but I was warmly encouraged  by those leading the project, that no forest “was too big or too small” to be included. As you will know from my last post I had in the last week managed to get our wee forest thinned and just in time as I was rung by the LISS team to say my forest had been selected for inspection a few days later.

The inspection was on Friday (25 Jan) and while we had great sunny weather earlier in the week for the thinning, it was pouring rain here when the two foresters, Padriag O’Tuama, Paddy Purser and LISS forest doctoral researcher, Lucy, came to visit. But luckily there was a good break in all that rain for us to look and for me to show them what we’d been trying to do with the forest, and observations that we had gathered living here over the last decade. I knew the two foresters from the ProSilva Ireland open forest study days I’ve attended over the years but it is a different experience when your own forest is been examined by professionals. It was great though, and what a treat to have the areas that I look at so often, looked at by such experienced eyes.

I went around today, after more heavy rain yesterday and took these photos and notes to remind me of all the comments and great advice Padraig, Paddy and Lucy had given me. I feel very lucky that Hollywood has got input from some of the most forward thinking foresters in the country. A lot of ‘seeing the forest’ for me, in my work as an artist has been helped enormously by talking with how foresters keenly see trees, soil and light conditions and they just can’t help themselves thinking and practicing for the long term. There is such a lot going on even in such a tiny forest too and foresters easily visualise things decades hence if such and such a area is thinned, pruned, if new species are brought in or probably the most important, how areas that are naturally regenerating will evolve and how to maximise this too. I know now that I have to thin little and often and on our site, we need to do this every three years and also some areas could do with new plantings of other species (something I will get onto soon, in this planting season).

My great thanks to Padriag, Paddy and Lucy for coming and including Hollywood in the LISS survey. It was heartening to hear too that close to 300 sites are listed on the database and surprising to hear was that most of sites are public, not private. In fact a great number of Coillte sites have been put forward but the survey is revealing that complete understanding of Close-to-Nature-continuous cover LISS forest management is still low in many of the sites recently surveyed but it is changing. Many think that such forests are simply forests which are not clear-felled but Close-to-Nature-continuous cover LISS forestry is a very active management strategy that includes managing selective harvesting, attention to pruning of the best trees and sometimes under-planting with other species.

Lucy has been working on this COFORD LISS project for the last 2 years and the results will form a published paper. It will be an important baseline for Ireland’s forest industry as it moves towards a more deeply sustainable, non-clear fell, active forest management, a new framework that secures  long term and increasing ecological and economic benefits to and from our Irish forests.

* LISS  -The Low Impact Silvicultural Systems in Ireland (LISS) research project aims to expand the knowledge base on sustainable forest management in Ireland. The project is run by University College Dublin, the forest management research company Purser Tarleton Russell Ltd. and the semi-state forestry company Coillte Teo, and is funded by COFORD, the National Council for Forest Research and Development in Ireland, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The project is directed by the Project Coordinator, guided by the Project Steering Group consisting of the Project Coordinator and representatives of the participating companies and national and international experts (some from ProSilva Europe).

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  1. February 3, 2013

    Great photos, and well done on the inspection. Strange how the forest can look so dry in the pix!

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