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«The Economic and Social Aspects of Biodiversity Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity in Ireland REPORT PREPARED BY: CRAIG BULLOCK, OPTIMIZE CONSULTANTS ...»

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This figure is small, however, in comparison an estimated value of carbon sequestration at 45 million per year.

It has to be acknowledged that these figures are modest due to the small size and composition of the forest estate. Whereas recreation is the main social benefit in Ireland, forests are a more prevalent feature of the landscape of continental Europe where they contribute more distinct benefits in terms of tourism and hunting. In the UK, the annual value of forestry recreation alone has been estimated at £392 million (Willis et al, 2003). However, the UK has 2.66 million hectares of forest (732,000ha broad-leaf + 256,000ha for amenity).5 By comparison, Ireland has 700,000 hectares of forest, most of which is coniferous plantation with inevitably lower recreational and biodiversity benefits than broad-leaf forests, particularly native old-growth forests. The Irish population has little experience of mature deciduous forests as so few examples exist. Probably these benefits would be greater with an enlightened policy of expansion that encompasses amenity and biodiversity. As it is, Coillte have shown renewed interest in the amenity value of forestry in recent years.

4.5 T H R E AT S Most commercial forestry plantations have hitherto been comprised of Sitka spruce or lodgepole pine with the result, not only of a monoculture, but a monoculture of an exotic species.

Biodiversity is typically low, particularly where plantations are large and of a single age class. The planting of single blocks of 200 hectares were not uncommon in the past.

Furthermore, as noted above, these forests were often planted on the most marginal agricultural land which, by virtue of its inherently low productivity, had frequently been little impacted upon by human activity and still characterised by high biodiversity.

A continuation of such trends would threaten biodiversity. Fortunately, the afforestation of blanket bogs has now virtually ceased due to the low yield class and absence of state grants for planting in such locations, but planting is continuing on marginal land that can be of biodiversity and landscape value. Government criteria for the Afforestation Grant Scheme now require the retention of 15% of the afforested area for biodiversity. Ten per cent of this area is recommended for broad-leaf trees. Other areas have been left as peatland or heath (O’Sullivan, 2004). Open spaces are recommended by ecologists for bats, birds and herb species. Clear felling is also being discouraged so as to permit the development of a more unevenly aged stand.


Coillte is continuing with an ecological inventory and making improvements to forest structure, including the preservation of dead wood, so as to encourage biodiversity. Biodiversity Action Plans have been initiated in relation to pearl mussels (threatened by acidification and sedimentation), lesser horseshoe bats, hen harriers and raised bogs. Supported by EU LIFE funding, the company is involved in several projects to restore mature woodlands and bogs, including projects that are examining alternative forest management for peatlands in the West.

4.6 CO S T S O F P R OT E C T I ON, C U R R E N T S T R AT E G I E S A N D F U T U R E

POLICY Ecologists are realising the benefits of mimicking natural woodland environments (Hartley, 2002, Bengtsson, 2000). Hartley (2002) speculates on the potential economic benefits of using woodland as shelter belts or of realisation of higher timber values by allowing trees to age. Coillte agrees that older trees, including spruce, have a financial value as seed sources both for in-situ regeneration and for restocking and sale. However, while the benefits of sustainable management are imprecise, the costs are more tangible to forest managers. The setting aside of 15% of the forest area involves a direct cost. Although, many such areas will have relatively low productivity, others will involve an opportunity cost of lost timber production particularly where the land used for the preservation of old deciduous growth is located at riverside locations where soils are most fertile. Allowing selected trees to age also involved an opportunity cost, noting the timber value of older trees and the fact that most trees in Ireland have hitherto been grown for fibre. Selective felling, as an alternative to clearfell, also has a direct cost.

Compensation for these opportunity cost of forestry, included the productive land set-aside, is received in the form of afforestation grants and premia payments.The former vary from 3,414 per hectare for unenclosed conifers to 7,604 per hectare for enclosed beech. Clearly, there are economic and strategic objectives behind these grants as well as biodiversity objectives. Almost 94 million was spent on grants and premia in 2006 with around a further 1.5 million being on predominantly broad-leaf schemes (Government of Ireland, 2007). All plantings have to conform to biodiversity principles, but biodiversity benefits are maximised where broad-leafs are planted.

Payments directed at broad-leaf plantings (in excess of rates for conifers) amounted to around 12 million. While accepting that other plantings are subject to biodiversity objectives, these broad-leafs are also supported for their non-biodiversity amenity and landscape benefits. Therefore, 12 million could be taken to be a reasonable estimate of the policy cost of biodiversity.

In addition, foresters experience private costs and benefits from conforming to biodiversity principles. Sustainable forest management, as attested by FSC certification, has been accepted as a necessary objective by Coillte. Unfortunately, no studies have been undertaken by Coillte, or apparently anybody else, to calculate the costs involved. Bacon and Associates (2004) apply a zero value to broadleafs. Where these constitute 15% of the planted area, the final opportunity cost of lost forestry income can be assumed to be up to 2,400 per hectare (or a present value of 342 over the forest cycle) assuming the set-aside area would otherwise be good for commercial forestry.

However, from another perspective, Irish forestry has been capitalising on sustainable management through FSC certification. Potentially, broad-leaf trees could have a premium timber value if they are well cultivated. Furthermore, Coillte has realised a payback in that accredited soft or hardwood products are more marketable. For government contracts and exports to the UK and Germany, certification is increasingly being demanded by the major timber merchants in response to policy.

Certification also confers PR benefits and competitive advantages for the company’s board products in relation to plywood imports from Brazil and the Far East.

Despite the positive policies that Coillte has adopted for biodiversity, almost no new areas are being planted aside from replanting. It is assumed that much of the expansion in the area of forestry will come from private plantings, mostly by farmers. Although forestry payments are conditional on the basic biodiversity requirements described above, there is no public access to most of these plantings and no arrangements for biodiversity management. The Forestry Service has now begun to fill this gap through a new Forestry Environmental Protection Scheme (FEPS) for REPS farmers. The pilot scheme has a target of 2,700 hectares on which growers can receive premia top-ups of 200 per hectare (first 40ha) thereafter for five years in addition to the normal grants available under the Afforestation Scheme.

REFERENCES Bacon and Associates (2004), A Review and Appraisal of Ireland’s Forestry Development Strategy.

Wexford. In association with Deloitte.

Battles, J. (2007),Worms go into battle against evil weevil, The Sunday Times, April 22, 2007.

Bengtsson, J., Nilsson, S.G., Frank, A., Menozzi, P. (2000) Biodiversity Function, Disturbance, Ecosystem Function and Management of European Forests, Forest Ecology and Management, 132, pp 39-50.

Clinch, J.P. (1999) Economics of Irish Forestry, Dublin, COFORD.

Coillte and the Irish Sports Council (2005) Economic Value of Trails and Forest Trails in the Republic of Ireland. Report prepared by Fitzpatrick Associates.

Fahy, O. and Foley, N. (2004) Biodiversity Opportunities in Plantations Managed for Wood Supply, in MacLennan, L. (Ed) Opportunities for Biodiversity Enhancement in Plantation Forests. Proceedings of the COFORD seminar held on 24 October 2002, Cork.

Good, J., Newton, I., Miles, J., Marus, R and Greatorex-Davies, J.N. (1991) Forests as a Wildlife Habitat, Forestry Commission Occasional Paper 40, Edinburgh.

Government of Ireland. Forestry Statistics 2006. Forest Service.

Hartley, M.J. (2002) Methods for Conserving Biodiversity in Plantation Forests, Forest Ecology and Management, 155, pp 81-95.

Hickie, D. (1990) Forestry in Ireland: Policy and Practice. Dublin, An Taisce.

Lugo, A.E. (1997) The Apparent Paradox of Re-establishing Species Richness on Degraded Lands with Tree Monocultures, Forest Ecology Management, 99, pp9-19.

National Forest Protection Alliance (undated) The Economic Case against National Forest Logging.

www.forestadvocate.org Ni Dhubhain, A., Gardiner, J., Davies, J., Hutchinson,W.G., Chilton, S.,Thompson, K., Psaltopoulis, D., & Anderson, C. (1994) The Socio-economics Impacts of Afforestation on Rural Development. Final Report, CAMAR, European Commission.

Otto, K., Mulder, M. and Verbruggen, H. (2002) CO2 Emission Trading in the Netherlands. Paper presented at 2nd CATEP Workshop, University College London, March 2002.

O’Sullivan, A. (2004) Enhancing Biodiversity in Commercial Forestry – Coillte’s Approach. In MacLennan.

Purser, P.M., Byrne, K.A. and Farrell, E.P. (2006) Impact of Climate Change on Irish Forestry. EPA.

Stiell,W.M. & Berry, A.B. (1987) Limiting White Weevil Attacks by Side Shade, Forest Chronology, 61, pp5-6.

Watt, A.D. (1992) Insect Pest Population Dynamics: Effect of Tree Species Diversity. In Cannell, M.G.R. et al,The Ecology of Mixed Species Stands of Trees, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, pp267-285.

Willis, K., Garrod, G., Scarpa, R., Powe, N., Lovett, A., Bateman, I.A.., Hanley, N. & Macmillan, D.C.

(2003) The Social and economic Benefits of Forests in Great Britain. Report to the Forestry Commission, www.newcastle.ac.uk/cream.

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5.1 T H E R E LAT I ON S H I P B E T W E E N F I S H E R I E S A N D B I O D I V E R S I T Y

Globally, the oceans provide the primary source of food for over 3.5 billion people (UNEP 2004).

Seafood delivers more dietary protein than cattle, sheep or poultry (FAOSTAT Data 2005) and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and D, phosphorus, magnesium, and selenium. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids, found abundantly in seafood, have important health benefits, such as improved infant brain development and protection against heart disease and stroke (Stone 1996, Krauss 2000, Kris-Etherton 2002).

Capture fisheries in coastal waters alone contribute $34 billion to gross world product annually.

However, the financial value alone belies the importance of the sector for employment and livelihoods. Ninety per cent of the world’s fishermen and women operate at the local community level, and bring in over fifty percent of the global fish catch (UNEP 2004).The small-scale fisheries sector directly employs about 40 million people. If support staff, supporting industries and dependents of these workers are added to this figure, then small to medium fishing enterprises support the livelihoods of more than 200 million people worldwide (FAO SOFIA 2004, McGoodwin 2001).

Inshore coastal zones cover only 8% of the Earth, but the services they provide are responsible for approximately 43% of the estimated total value of ecosystem services (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Being the most productive part of the ocean, the coastal boundary ecosystem contains 90% of marine fishing grounds. Furthermore, as nearly 40% of the human population lives within 100 km of the coast, marine ecosystems also provide an essential service in assimilating and detoxificating pollution from coastal cities and rivers.

Biodiversity drives the productivity within the marine ecosystem. Benefits derive from both genetic diversity and diversity of diet. However, it is only recently that the direct contribution of biodiversity has been realised, most recently from the results of the largest international marine biodiversity study to date headed by Dalhousie University in Canada (Worm et al. 2006). Examining fishing grounds from around the world, the authors found that a 78-80% increase in primary and secondary productivity, and a 20-36% enhancement of resource use efficiency, occurs under high biodiversity systems when compared with low diversity systems. Furthermore, higher diversity systems were also quicker to recover from fish depletion or other catastrophes.

Based on an analysis of commercial fish catches between 1950 and 2003 in various fishing grounds worldwide,Worm et al find that the populations of 29% of commercial fish species have now collapsed, i.e. to be below 10% of their former levels. The trend appears to be accelerating.

Cumulative yields have fallen by 13% (10.6 million tonnes) since 1994 despite the increased efficiency of fishing effort. The rates of depletion have been greater in those waters that are low in biodiversity. Even more worrying is that capacity for recovery is greatly undermined by this loss of biodiversity, a contributory factor to which is fishermens’ own ability to switch easily to other more easily caught species. Worm et al. conclude that, on current trends, global collapse of fisheries is likely by the middle of the century. Climate change, combined with changes in oceanic currents, could accelerate the trend in that low levels of biodiversity will be unable to provide the necessary resilience to ecological change. Despite this gloomy prediction, the authors accept that recovery is still possible if radical measures are taken. In principle, this is possible. At the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, the EU and other international states committed themselves to harvesting at no more than maximum sustainable yield by 2015.

5.2 R E L E VA N T S P E C I E S A N D F U N C T I ON

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