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The role of planted forests in the provision of habitat: an Irish perspective


The continued decline of natural forests globally has increased interest in the potential of planted forests to support biodiversity. Here, we examine the potential conservation benefits of plantation forests from an Irish perspective, a country where remaining natural forests are fragmented and degraded, and the majority of the forest area is comprised of non-native Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) plantations. We examine the true value of Irish plantation forests to native biodiversity, relative to remaining natural forest fragments, and to prior and alternative land use to afforestation. We find that plantation forests provide a suitable surrogate habitat primarily for generalist species, as well as providing habitat for certain species of conservation concern. However, we find that plantation forests provide poor habitat for native forest specialists, and examine potential management strategies which may be employed to improve habitat provision services for this group.

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This study was undertaken as part of the ‘ECOVALUE’ project at University College Cork and University College Dublin, which was funded by COFORD, the Department of Argiculture, Food and the Marine in Ireland. Special thanks to the ‘PLANFORBIO’ research team from University College Cork who's work contributed greatly to this review. This paper benefited greatly from input of two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Cormac J. O’Callaghan.

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This is part of the special issue on ‘Forest biodiversity and ecosystem services’.

Communicated by Eckehard Brockerhoff, Hervé Jactel and Ian Thompson.

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O’Callaghan, C.J., Irwin, S., Byrne, K.A. et al. The role of planted forests in the provision of habitat: an Irish perspective. Biodivers Conserv 26, 3103–3124 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-016-1125-7

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  • Biodiversity
  • Forest generalist
  • Forest specialist
  • Habitat
  • Ireland
  • Plantation forests