Forest Ecosystem Research Group Reports

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A selection of research project reports produced by the Forest Ecosystem Research Group.

The Forest Ecosystem Research Group aims to increase our understanding of ways in which we can manage the environmental resources of soil, air and water to achieve a sustainable supply of the economic, social and environmental values of forested ecosystems.

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  • Publication
    Forest health and ecosystem monitoring in Ireland, 2009 : FutMon Project, further development and implementation of an EU-Level forest monitoring system, project number LIFE07 ENV/D/000218
    (UCD Soil Science, University College Dublin and Coillte Research & Environment, 2011-02) ; ;
    This work aims to protect forests in Europe from effects of air pollution, and climate change, and to provide a basis for sustainable management of forest for multiple commercial and societal values. Monitoring of forest health and forest ecosystem processes reported here for 2009 was done under the EU Life+ FutMon Project Further Development and Implementation of an EU-Level Forest Monitoring System, project number LIFE07 ENV/D/000218. These studies extend a continuous series of projects at these sites since 1991, and related work begun in Ireland in 1988, of which the latest accessible report is Farrell and Boyle (2005). Reports for intervening years, 2003–2008 are in preparation. The monitoring procedures built on those in the previous projects and closely follow the ICP Manual (UN/ECE, 1998 and updates), while data reporting is in the formates specified by FutMon. FutMon surveys carried out in 2009, and reported here, are: visual assessment of crown condition and damaging agents; leaf-area-index measurements; air quality measurements; sampling and analysis of litterfall; sampling and analysis of deposition, and; sampling and analysis of soil-solution. The health status of the forests in Ireland is good. Level I plots were assessed between June and September 2009. The key indicator of that health status is defoliation, which has a mean value of 16% for the Level I network of thirty-two plots assessed here. Discolouration also shows low values, with a mean value of 0.61, averaged from values on a a scale of 0–4. This indicates that the central value for this survey is below 10% of crown discolouration, within the class of least damage. Leaf-area index measurements were done using hemispheric photographs. The values represent the ratio of green-leaf area to ground area, using upper-leaf area for broadleaves, and half of total-green area for needle-leaves. Leaf Area Index is lowest (2.11) for Brackloon, which is unmanaged, open-canopy semi-natural ancient oak, being much higher for the two productive spruce stands. The much higher values for the two spruce stands, around 6, are at the higher end of the range of LAI observed for boreal spruce forests. Air quality was assessed with Gradko passive samplers for ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and ozone (NH3, NO2, SO2 and O3). Ammonia levels were higher than in a comparable survey in 1999. Litterfall was collected, separated into fractions, and analysed for contents of nutrients and trace metals. Deposition, measured as precipitation, throughfall and stemflow, was collected and analysed weekly, and analysed for nutrient and other major elemental constituents. Soil-solution was also periodically sampled below the forest-floor organic horizon, and at two levels within the root-zone at two sites. Analysis demonstrates major elemental-turnover and redistribution processes at forest-ecosystem level, including dry-deposition onto foliage, foliar exchange, concentration by evaporation, interaction with soil organic matter, uptake by roots, effects of mineral weathering, and outputs to deep-soil water. These observations, combined with those throughout the twenty-year monitoring history, provide a basis for detecting change with external influences including major weather events, climate changes, specific deposition events, and also underpins investigation of the impact of novel management approaches, particularly whole-tree harvesting and more intensive recovery of harvest residues, as well as providing the means to assess exceedance of critical loads of acidity and of nutrient nitrogen. In combination, this monitoring provides the basis for ensuring forest health and the consequences of continued good health for forest-ecosystem services, and identifying change; for understanding the drivers of such change, including climate changes, and the effects of long-range transboundary air pollution; and for positive assessment of the effects of management decisions on sustainability.
      365
  • Publication
    Monitoring of forest ecosystems in Ireland : FOREM 9 project : final report
    (University College Dublin. Forest Ecosystem Research Group, 2004) ;
    Intensive monitoring has been carried out under EC Regulation 3528/86 (project number 8860 IR 001.0) at Ballyhooly, Co. Cork since 1988. In 1991, three new plots (Roundwood, Cloosh and Brackloon) were established (9060IR0030) to give a more comprehensive network of such plots in Ireland. Monitoring of these three plots continued under project numbers 9360IR0030, 9560IR0030, 9760 IR 0030 9860 IR 0030, 9960IR0030, 2000.60.IR, 2001.60.IR and the current project, focusing on atmospheric inputs and biogeochemical cycling. In 2001, a new plot, Ballinastoe was established, to replace the Roundwood plot, which was due to be clearfelled. This project, (FOREM9, 2002.60.IR) ran from January 2002 to December 2002. The monitoring is designed to improve understanding of the effects of atmospheric pollution on forest ecosystems, and is based on permanent sample plots located in important forest ecosystems in Ireland. The monitoring procedures followed those in the previous projects and closely follow the ICP Manual (UN/ECE, 1998 and updates). Measurements included: precipitation in an open-field plot; quantitative collection and chemical analysis of forest throughfall and stemflow; collection and chemical analysis of forest soil solution from zero-tension lysimeters below the forest floor, and from suction lysimeters at greater depths. The health status of the forests in Ireland is generally good. The Roundwood and Ballinastoe sites are located in the east of Ireland. As such, they are it is subject to higher levels of atmospheric pollutants than the two sites located on the west coast. If there were to be a deterioration in the health of forests in Ireland due to atmospheric deposition, it would be expected to first appear on the east coast, where deposition is highest. Thus the Roundwood and Ballinastoe sites are very valuable for the intensive monitoring programme. Atmospheric deposition in Ireland is dominated by marine ions, notably sodium and chloride. This is due to Ireland’s location on the western seaboard of continental Europe. However, the country is exposed to pollutants during periods of easterly air flows. Evidence of these is seen particularly at the Roundwood and Ballinastoe sites, in eastern Ireland. These “pollution events” merit more comprehensive treatment, to ascertain both their frequency and intensity, and to make some estimation of their potential effects on the forest ecosystem. Soil water sampling is essential to the understanding of these events. Calculation of soil water fluxes carried out in this project, improves our insight into the longer-term environmental impacts of atmospheric deposition on these forests.
      927