Plantation forestry: Carbon and climate impacts


  • •For spruce plantations on peaty soils, measured carbon emissions are greater than currently predicted.
  • •Despite new guidelines, spruce plantation establishment and restocking continues to disturb and drain peaty soils.
  • •Carbon is flowing out of ditches into rivers, and spruce plantations on peaty soils are contributing to climate change.
  • •The problem is acute in south west Scotland.
  • •Regulations and safeguards for soil carbon and drainage of peaty soils should be further strengthened.


Conifer forestry is expanding rapidly across western parts of the British Isles. This is promoted as good for climate, carbon and biodiversity. However, many spruce plantations are established by draining and disturbing peaty soils, which then release carbon and impair river ecosystems. This ‘viewpoint paper’ focuses on Scotland, and asks that investors and policy-makers recognise the damage being done by rapid afforestation and restocking. The author focusses on the drainage of peaty soils, and suggests that the incentives driving these changes are corrected in order to favour a better kind of forest.

All-Island Climate and Biodiversity Research Network (AICBRN)

This major initiative brings together leading research centres across the whole island of Ireland to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergency where a trans-national approach is essential.

Researchers from all of the centres across the network have come together to work with national, regional and local governments, communities and industry to effectively deliver solutions to climate, biodiversity and social challenges caused by global warming.

‘The ambition of the AICBRN is to develop a large-scale research and innovation initiative to improve public good policy and management decisions, underpin business and enterprise strategies and strengthen societal capacity to address the climate and biodiversity emergencies’

We will be investigating:

  • Clean energy solutions and how to economically implement these to achieve a socially just transition away from fossil fuels
  • Prevention of biodiversity loss, reversing degradation in ecosystems and how to make our natural environment more resilient to climate change
  • Protecting and enhancing agriculture in Ireland and looking to achieve negative carbon emissions
  • Improving climate predictions and the level of uncertainty to improve forecasting of adverse weather and flood risk

Land Use Review

Programme for Government commits to an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030 (a 51% reduction over the decade), and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

This will be challenging and will require fundamental changes in so many parts of Irish life. In rising to the challenge, we will be able to improve the health, welfare and security of all our people.

To assist in the delivery of this ambition the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future (2020) committed to a national land use review:

Land use review: The Government will undertake a national land use review, including farmland, forests, and peatlands, so that optimal land use options inform all relevant government decisions. The review will balance environmental, social, and economic considerations and involve a process of evaluation of the ecological characteristics of the land. It will include consideration of emissions to air and water, carbon sequestration, and climate adaptation challenges’.

It is anticipated that such a review would allow knowledge transfer to policymakers, advisory services, and landowners in making informed choices as to how best to use land.

Details on the review are here:–assessment/assessment/land/

FLARES – Fire, Land and Atmospheric Remote sensing of Emissions

Fires, Land and Atmospheric Remote Sensing of EmissionS (FLARES) aims to develop systematic approaches to the acquisition and collation of a range of data on agricultural and uncontrolled wildland burning burn events from satellite datasets.

These will be validated by in situ observations, and measurement of relevant emission factors for Irish wildfires, with the objective of improving the accuracy and reducing uncertainty in the quantification of annual greenhouse gas and particulate emissions.

The work builds on previous EPA-funded work to characterise upland habitats from satellite imagery, thus enabling the type of vegetation burned to be identified, and biomass lost to be calculated. The reliability of existing satellite and ground datasets will be evaluated, and proposals made for future operational air quality monitoring by drawing on the inter-disciplinary approaches of the Earth Observation and Atmospheric Chemistry expertise within the consortium.