The concept of biodiversity is examined in this section which outlines how Forest Service is actively involved in managing not only the trees in its forests but the entire habitat.

Species and habitat

There has been widespread concern in recent times over the loss of wildlife in terms of species and their habitat, resulting primarily from the actions of another species - called man.

Moths in a meadow
Moths in a meadow

A total of 150 countries signed the International Biodiversity Convention at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. These countries are committed to playing their part in a world wide drive to stem the decline in biodiversity.

Biodiversity is best described as the total variety of ecosystems and living species, including genetic variation within species.

Conserving biodiversity requires the maintenance of the full complement of species within any given habitat, and the handing on of this stock, undiminished, from one generation to the next.

Biodiversity action plans

Each country agreed to produce and implement a strategy to conserve biodiversity.The UK Government has produced its own Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP),which identify actions to be taken and target dates for completion, with regard to a number of habitat types and species that are most at risk.

Northern Ireland biodiversity group

The Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group was set up to advise the government on how best to apply the principles of the UK BAP here. This group produced a biodiversity strategy which:

  • describes the main features of biodiversity in Northern Ireland
  • identifies the main features affecting biodiversity
  • proposes measures to support the conservation of biodiversity for the period 2001-2016

The strategy places a firm responsibility not solely on the government, but on society as a whole, to exist within the parameters of sustainability, and to reverse recent adverse environmental trends, of which global warming is but one by-product of man's existence.

The biodiversity strategy requires that conservation programmes be undertaken for particular habitats and species, especially those that are rare, vulnerable or declining, examples which are outlined below.

Woodland habitat

Although there are no true natural woodlands remaining in the UK, three types of semi natural woodland habitat have been identified within Northern Ireland, namely wet woodlands, upland oakwoods, and upland mixed ashwoods.

However, the area covered by these woodlands is very small, and the Forest Service is currently playing its part in restoring areas of former semi-natural woodland within its estate.

Woodland species

The red squirrel is one woodland mammal that is facing extinction in Ireland, unless its recent population decline can be halted. The Forest Service and our partners within the NI Red Squirrel Forum are working together with the sole objective of conserving this animal.

An action plan for this species has been prepared by the forum, which focuses on five key areas throughout the Province, where viable red squirrel populations can most likely be sustained. Each key area contains a high percentage of coniferous forest, which is the habitat most likely to support viable red squirrel populations in the long term.

The Forest Service is also involved with other bodies in the preparation of action plans for the Irish hare and the curlew, two species that may be affected by afforestation.

In 1998, the UK Forestry Standard was published and set out the criteria and standards for sustainable management of our forests in the UK. This publication ensures that commercial forestry will play an increasingly important role in woodland biodiversity through sensitive management and forest redesign. It sets out indicators of sustainability in terms of biological, physical and social resources.

Sustainable forest management

The stewardship and use of forests in such a way, and at a rate that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regenerative capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil now and in the future, relevant ecological ,economic and social functions, at local, national and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.

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