Pro Silva Ireland

Autumn Field Day 2023

December 6, 2023

Autumn Field Day 2023

This year’s Autumn field day brought us to the beautiful county of Leitrim and the forest of Seán Ó Conláin.
The theme of the day was ‘Late transformation to CCF in the West of Ireland’.
Seán and his family acquired 8 hectares of 26-year-old pure Sitka spruce in 2013, which tied in with the 6 hectares of mixed broadleaves Seán and his family planted in 2005. Following the development of a forest road, works commenced in 2015 to begin the transformation of the conifer stand through a series of CCF management interventions.
Paddy Purser, left, and Seán Ó Conláin, right, welcoming the group to Co. Leitrim
Along with forester Paddy Purser, Seán introduced us to the challenges and opportunities involved in this very late attempt at transformation to CCF. Three thinning operations have taken place (in 2015, 2018 and 2021), with tree marking for a fourth completed. Each operation was followed by enrichment planting with hornbeam, hazel, beech, cedar, silver fir and chestnut. The young plants are doing well and the forest is slowly taking on a new shape, although the presence of red deer in the area poses a threat to the regeneration of the forest and some damage is evident.

Regular measurements taken by Seán and Paddy has supplied them with important data to monitor the progress of the transformation and a ‘slow and steady’ approach prevails.

Despite concerns of commencing thinning at a late stage, the forest hasn’t suffered significantly from wind-damage. The small amount of windthrow following storms in 2022 has naturally opened up spaces for underplanting and is seen by the ever-optimistic Seán as an opportunity.

Lessons learned from the use of conventional forest harvesting machinery on wet soils at the wrong time of year were discussed and, as is always the case, deer damage was a topic of conversation.

Much of the morning was given over to discussions on forestry policy in Ireland and the importance of real engagement with local communities about the potential long-term benefits, as well as the challenges, of adopting CCF management in Ireland.

An afternoon stroll through the mixed broadleaf forest of birch, alder, ash, oak, rowan and other broadleaves brought the discussion around to early interventions in the plots and the impact of ash dieback. Because the trees were planted in a mix of small groups, the impact of ash dieback on the overall structure of the forest has been minimised. This is an important lesson for how we should plant forests into the future.

Results from the chromatography analysis of soil samples at Edergale, Co. Leitrim, courtesy of Vanya Lambrecht Ward and Seán Ó Conláin.

The group was also treated to a fascinating introduction by Vanya Lambrecht Ward to the use of chromatography (a type of separation technique) in visualising the components and qualities of soil. Understanding the dynamics of soil structure and how different tree species impact on soil quality will have important implications for the long-term endurance of our forests.

Pro Silva Ireland extends a sincere thank you to Seán, Bríd and family for their wonderful hospitality and to Vanya for her valuable input on the day.

Everyone on the day was heartened by the passion and vision Seán has for his forest and forestry in general, demonstrating the real opportunities that come from owner engagement.


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