The Slow Disappearance of Irish Trees

Although Ireland is home to a beautiful landscape and many famous landmarks, traveling around the country may prompt a common question: where are all the native Irish trees?

Ireland is known for many of its attributes, one of them being its trees or lack thereof.

At one point, Ireland had a forest coverage of nearly 80% which is astonishing when compared to the current forest coverage of about 11%, and only 2-3% broadleaf trees.

The average forest coverage in Europe is over 40%. There are two primary reasons for why Ireland has no trees.

The first reason is due to the ever-changing climate. About 20,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, a large amount of Ireland was covered in glaciers. When the Ice Age was brought on, it is likely that no trees in Ireland survived.

However nearly 12,000 years ago temperatures began to warm, and the glaciers melted, resulting in higher sea levels and the ultimate formation of Ireland’s current landscape.

For thousands of years, only hardy trees, such as willows and birches, were able to survive in Ireland due to the climate. Slowly more tree species, including oak and ash, began to grow.

However, the rate of climate change has only increased in recent years which has worsened Ireland’s tree dilemma. Higher temperatures and reduced rainfall have made it increasingly difficult for native Irish trees to survive.

The second reason for Ireland’s deforestation is human activity, or, rather, human destruction, which is undoubtedly primarily responsible for this issue.

Starting about 6,000 years ago, humans in Ireland began clearing land for agriculture and using trees for resources at a pace that depleted forests. Timber was recognized as a highly valuable commodity due to its wide range of uses.

As the population continued to grow, the speed at which forests were cleared accelerated to keep up with demand, as wood was used for a variety of resources such as tools and ships.

Due to the fact that the climate was very wet at the time, the lack of trees resulted in a lack of nutrients in the soil. Bad soil conditions not only made it difficult for trees to survive but made it nearly impossible for tree seedlings to grow.

High volumes of farm animals also restricted tree seedlings from growing.

Over the next few thousand years, as the population continued to rapidly increase and humans continued to use unsustainable habits, the landscape in Ireland became blanketed in dead vegetation.

In recent history, there has been a big push by the Irish to fix the lack of native trees. Most notably, the Irish Government has started a project that aims to plant 440 million trees by the year 2040.

It is essential to plant native Irish trees as these are the trees that will be able to best support Ireland’s ecosystem.

Given the poor status of Ireland’s native trees, gifting an Irish tree to a loved one will not only serve as a heartfelt and ever-lasting present but will also immensely contribute to restoring Ireland’s natural landscape while simultaneously helping to protect the planet. Gifting a native Irish tree is a standout present perfect for any occasion.

Article Researched and Written by Charlotte Morten.

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