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Forest intensification in Ireland: Developing an approximation of social acceptability

Duesberg, Stefanie, Ní Dhubháin, Áine
Land use policy 2019 v.85 pp. 368-386
afforestation, ecosystem services, food production, forest ecosystems, forests, fuels, intensive forestry, interviews, land resources, society, stakeholders, timber supply, wood, Ireland
It is forecast that Ireland will experience a shortage in timber supply by 2020 due to rising demand for fuel and construction. The option to increase the wood production by expanding Ireland’s relatively low forest area of 11% is limited. Despite generous afforestation programs afforestation rates have plummeted and there is a competition for land resources with food production and other land-uses. Hence, timber supply from existing forests needs to increase, which requires intensifying production without compromising environmental and social ecosystem services. The purpose of this study was to find out how intensively forests in Ireland could be managed without creating a negative impact on society’s overall benefits from forests. A number of studies have been conducted to date researching the preferences of forest stakeholders with regard to forest management operations. In these studies preferences represent an ideal outcome or situation. Rather than looking at an ideal outcome we wanted to know how far forest management intensification could go, without creating conflict. In other words we were looking for the most intensive forest management options still acceptable to a majority of forest stakeholders with interests in environmental and recreational forest ecosystem services. For this purpose we conducted a multi-method study including in-depth interviews and an online survey with forest stakeholders interested in these ecosystem services. The results show that further intensifying forest management in Ireland could bear conflict potential as none of the currently used forest management intensities are accepted by a majority of participants.