EPA releases two major research reports

Date released: Nov 15 2007

Research findings:

  • Good forestry practices can support a wider range of flora and fauna in plantation forests.
  • A National Baseline Database of soil geochemistry developed and a National Soil Archive established.

The Environmental Protection Agency has today released two co-funded research project reports.  The first, the BIOFOREST project, has provided much needed basic information on biodiversity in Irish plantation forests and was co-funded by the EPA and COFORD.  The second, the National Soils Database has developed a National Soil Archive representing a valuable resource for future soils research in Ireland.  It was co-funded by the EPA and Teagasc.

1. The BIOFOREST project

This project examined the effects of different management methods on biodiversity within forests, from the planning stage through to the mature forest.

Mr Larry Stapleton, EPA Director, Office of Environmental Assessment, said,  “The promotion of biodiversity in forestry needs the support of good policies and practices. Fifty-eight recommendations are made from the BIOFOREST project.  These range from strategic planning to localised planning and practice and the consideration of biodiversity in forest establishment and management.”

The study looked at plant, birds, spiders and other invertebrate animals in over 100 sites throughout the country before planting and at different stages of the forest cycle and also investigated the impacts of forest practice to improve biodiversity. 

“The five-year BIOFOREST project co-funded by EPA and COFORD was one of the biggest inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional biodiversity project ever undertaken in the State”, said Professor John O’Halloran, UCC, the project Director.  “The study provided a great opportunity for scientists and forest practitioners to engage in research, which was benchmarked internationally to deliver on evidence based policy formulation or the forest industry”.

Recommendations for planning, practice, management and future research were agreed with stakeholders and these are now under review by the statutory agencies. The full details and a copy of the report can be obtained from http://www.epa.ie/researchandeducation/research/  and http://bioforest.ucc.ie.


2. Towards a National Soil Database for Ireland project

This project has developed a national baseline database for soils geochemistry in Ireland.   The resulting National Soil Archive comprises both soil samples and a nucleic acids archive.  The project team also drew up maps of well-known elements like potassium, phosphorous and magnesium as well as lesser-known elements such as gallium, tungsten and vanadium.

Dr Micheal Lehane, EPA Programme Manager, said, “The reports from the National Soils Database will become important tools to inform Ireland’s response to future EU Directives, in particular the proposed Soils Framework Directive.  They can also be used in the future to measure the effects of issues such as global warming”.

Access to the samples in the National Soil Archive will soon become possible for future research.  The actual data from the samples will become available to the general public as of March 2008 from the EPA Environmental Research Centre website (http://coe.epa.ie/safer) website. The samples collected have been archived at Teagasc, Johnstown Castle in Co Wexford (soil samples) and NUI Galway (nucleic acid samples).

A copy of the National Soils Database synthesis report is available at http://www.epa.ie/researchandeducation/research/.

Notes to Editor:

Research Teams:

1. The BIOFOREST project was undertaken by the following organisations:

·        Department of Zoology, Ecology and Plant Sciences (ZEPS), Environment Research Institute (ERI), University College, Cork (UCC)

·        Department of Botany, Trinity College, Dublin (TCD)

·        Coillte Teoranta, The Irish Forestry Board (Coillte)

The research team was guided by a Steering Group.  It included external experts from other organisations in Ireland (e.g. Dúchas) and abroad (Denmark, Finland, UK). The input of other external experts was drawn upon as necessary and supported by COFORD and EPA.


2. The Soil Database project was conducted by Teagasc, Johnstown Castle in association with NUI Galway and Sligo IT, and was significantly funded by the EPA. 

Further information:

BIOFOREST  project: Professor John O’Halloran UCC 021 4904653

Soil Database project: Dr Rogier Schulte, Teagasc 053 9171200