Native Woodland, an Introduction


Centuries of clearance for agriculture and over-exploitation for lumber have reduced the once extensive native woodlands of Ireland to the remnants we can now see. Instances of old native woodlands continue to be found as little isolated stands mainly in regions with weak soils which were not normally suitable for agriculture. Some areas that are bigger, nonetheless, exist in old estates where they can be managed for timber production and as protection for game. Native woodlands have also grown in the Midlands on rough deserted pasture in uplands, as well as on cutaway bog, particularly in recent decades.

Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry

Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry

Many of our native forests could have existed since post-glacial times (ancient or long-recognized woodlands), and these woodlands have a broader variety of related native plants and animal species, many of which are unique to these regions and not seen in modern commercial plantations. The woodlands are an essential habitat for native species in a landscape which is increasingly controlled by intensive agriculture and are thus the focus of nature conservation and biodiversity improvement.

Native woodlands, as the name suggests, are comprised of native tree species. Native woodlands are mainly broadleaved in Ireland. Examples are oak, ash, alder and birch and Scots pine. Native conifer woods are extremely scarce, the very best case being the yew wood in the Killarney National Park on the Muckross Peninsula.


Foresters now recognise their value as hot spots for native biodiversity and now perceive native woodlands in another light. Regional woodlands are being produced in riparian areas adjacent to lakes, rivers and streams to protect water courses from siltation and eutrophication. These places may also provide corridors for wildlife to move through and link the landscape aspects of biodiversity.

Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry

Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry



Several initiatives have been undertaken recently to restore and enlarge our native woodlands. Each has led to our knowledge of the best way to preserve and manage the native woodland resource. Ecologists, Foresters, contractors, volunteers, as well as other stakeholders working together have developed and executed significant strategies for the restoration of native woodlands. A few of these initiatives are listed below:


National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)

Restoration work with the native woodlands was first initiated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). This organisation manages about 5,000ha that symbolizes the finest of the native forests that have been named as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or nature reserves.

Overgrazing by livestock and wild deer present real risks to the future existence of a few of these woods; the oak forests of the Glengarriff Nature Reserve, as well as the Killarney National Park, being noteworthy examples. Restoration work continues to be ongoing for a long time but despite the price, issues and the size of the job the risks are being checked.

333Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry

Native Woodland. Ecoplan Forestry


Folks’ Millennium Forests

The Woodlands of Ireland undertook this job; a group set up by the Heritage Council to focus attention. The group also recognized new native woodlands and restored historic woods. A native tree was planted on behalf of each family in Ireland and a certificate was published to any or all houses giving details in regards to where trees were to be found in the Family Tree Scheme. The trees were planted within the restoration of the native woodland communities which contain nature trails, woodland walks, interpretative and recreational facilities.


Native Woodland Scheme

The Native Woodland Scheme (NWS) is geared toward protecting, improving and enlarging Ireland’s native woodland resource and related biodiversity, through proper planting and direction. The system also supports the growing of quality hardwood lumber in friendly areas. The system consists of two independent components: Conservation concentrating on guarding and improving existing native woodland, and Establishment creating new native woodland.


If you are interested in establishing, managing or learning about Native Woodlands, get in touch with Ecoplan Forestry using our Contact page. Ecoplan specialise in the management of Native Woodlands.

Sean McGinnis

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  1. This was exactly what I was looking for

  2. Dan O'Toole

    Hi Sean,
    You mention that native woodland can be managed for the production of game. In your opinion what game species fit best with the overall aim of biodiversity? and also what other secondary uses have you seen working well within a native woodland?
    Dan O’Toole

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