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Updated: Sep 20

This summer ForES PhD student Kathleen Conroy and Postdoc Francesco Martini of Trinity College Dublin represented our project at a number of conferences and summer schools. Here's an update on what they have been working on and what's to come...

5 smiling people standing outdoors in front of trees and buildings
Francesco and his ecology colleagues at the Botanical Society of America, Botany 2023 event in Idaho, USA

June 2023

Kathleen Conroy attended the British Ecological Society Trees for Climate Change, Biodiversity and People symposium. She presented a poster entitled “Creating Ecosystem Extent Accounts to Understand Land Use Change in Irish Forests” on June 28, speaking about the ForES project and the extent accounts the team have been creating for Irish Coillte estates. Several fellow speakers discussed the importance of monitoring and preserving forestry ecosystem services. They also raised the challenges they faced doing projects similar to ForES, such as understanding stakeholders’ targets, finding ways to increase biodiversity and adjusting species selection based on climate change projections.

July 2023

Kathleen attended a Summer School organised by three COST Action projects: 3DForEco Tech (focusing on using technology to monitor forest ecosystems), Bottoms-Up (focusing on gathering multi-taxon biodiversity data to inform forest management) and PROCLIAS (focusing on modelling climate change) in Slovenia from July 10-14. Presenting the same poster, she spoke more on the ForES project goals and research questions. At the summer school, she learned about Lidar and mapping forests with terrestrial laser scanners and how this data can be used to assess the structure of a forest or a single tree.

She also learned about measuring biodiversity with an emphasis on β diversity which examines two sites' compositional dissimilarities. Finally, she was taught about empirical (statistics based), and process-based (mathematics-based) models and how they can be used to understand climate change effects on forests.

Francesco Martini took part in the Botany Conference in Boise, Idaho, USA, from July 22-26, where he presented his talk titled 'Creating ecosystem extent accounts to understand land use change in Irish forests', introducing the ForES project and the results of the extent accounts. He provided details on one site in particular, Glendine, and a general overview of the land cover changes that occurred in the 25 sites used for the project between 2000 and 2018. Being a mostly American audience, with different experiences of forests and forestry compared to Ireland, most questions were on the general history and status of the Irish forests as well as the challenges that are being faced going into the future.

Francesco also judged posters and oral presentations by graduate and undergraduate students eligible for the best presentations conference awards and was elected Vice-Chair of the Ecology Section of the Botanical Society of America. Overall, it was a great opportunity to interact with a broad range of botanists working on a variety of research areas, to listen to diverse talks from ecosystems spanning from tropical forests to deserts to tundra, and to present the unique context of Irish forests to the conference attendees. A common message that connected many talks and posters was the interconnection and interdependency between all parts of the biosphere, including plants, animals, and humans.

Man speaks at event lectern in front of screen
Francesco in action presenting on creating forest ecosystem extent accounts at Irish forest sites at Botany 2023

August 2023

Kathleen participated in the summer school Promowood: The Future of Wood which was organised by the ETH-Domain initiatives MainWood & SCENE, the SwissForestLab and the NFZ.forestnet from August 19-26. Kathleen presented ForES project there as a poster and graphical abstract. Kathleen, picture below out on excursion and mid-presentation, learned about lifecycle assessment of wood products and cascading use, meaning that wood will be used for several different things in its lifetime (e.g., veneer to plywood to chip wood to fibre products then finally to chips for burning).

Other presentations included research into the strength of wood and its future use in construction, disseminating information to diverse audiences through different mediums and affectively engaging with stakeholders. The participants went on excursions to see the effects of avalanches on forests and how forests provide protection to communities from such disasters. Another excursion was to a sawmill where students saw how wood was processed and selected for musical instruments.

Keep an eye out for the For-ES team this Autumn. They will be presenting at the International Agroforestry Conference (16/11-17/11) in Cork and the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting (12/12-15/12) in Belfast.

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Updated: Sep 15

Our project aims to develop a tool to value the ecosystem services that forests provide to enable better decisions for the most sustainable use of land and forests. This may result in something known as ecosystem conversion. Here, Kathleen Conroy, Trinity College Dublin, looks at what conversion means in relation to forestry, with three significant associated terms - deforestation, reforestation and afforestation.

Ecosystem Conversion

Ecosystem conversion is an ecosystem changing from one type to another. This can occur naturally (e.g., wildfire, storm), however, it is often driven by human inputs and management based on societal needs or desires. For example, a forest may be removed for a housing development in a growing urban centre. Likewise, a pocket or urban forest may be developed in an abandoned field to create a recreation and relaxation area near a city school - a valuable addition to society and economy when the benefits it provides to physical and mental health, air quality, educational value, and more, are all factored in.

Three significant terms associated with conversion and forestry include deforestation, reforestation and afforestation.

Infographic with 3 boxes: an urban area, a forested one, and one with trees cut down, and arrows  circulating between them


Deforestation is the removal of trees from an area of land. It often has a negative connotation due to species habitat loss (e.g., orangutans displaced from the rainforest) and illegal logging. Mass deforestation in the rainforests of the Amazon and Indonesia impact the local and global ecosystem services provided by these forests. The deforestation is largely a result of agricultural expansion. With rising profit in beef production, the Amazon rainforest is cleared for cattle ranches and pastures while rainforests in Indonesia are cleared for palm oil farms. However, when done sustainably, deforestation can store carbon and provide societies with useful timber products. All deforestation will have initial negative impacts on the environment, - but if replanting happens soon after, then some of the damages can be mitigated. The opposite of deforestation is reforestation and afforestation.

Reforestation and Afforestation

The terms reforestation and afforestation are often used synonymously, because their end results are similar, the establishment of forestry in an area that was devoid of trees. However, reforestation and afforestation are different processes.

Reforestation is the process of replanting trees in an area that recently had its trees removed. An example would be an area felled and harvested for timber and then replanted. Afforestation is the process of planting trees in an area that did not recently have trees. An example would be the conversion of agricultural land or an urban area to a forest.

Reforestation and afforestation are areas being examined by projects such as ForES for the number of advantages that they can provide, especially in relation to ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, climate regulation and habitat for wildlife.

While Europe and North America are having the highest rates of reforestation and afforestation, large-scale deforestation is occurring in South America and Southeast Asia. However, this is very much a global concern. Global institutions realise the importance of forests and the consequence of deforestation. The UN Strategic Plan for Forests calls for the end of deforestation by 2030. By working together, nations can address the issues around deforestation and collaborate to reach targets and goals.

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Updated: Sep 15

Our Trinity College Dublin researchers will be presenting their ForES work on ecosystem extent accounts for forest sites at a number of events this summer. Read more...

Poster with a bluebell wood in the background and a smiling woman in a green jumper in front of a book case

Our ForES PhD Candidate Kathleen Conroy will be speaking at the Trees for Climate Change, Biodiversity and People event in Canterbury, England, hosted by The Woodland Trust, University of Kent and the British Ecological Society, which takes place from June 28-29. The presentation topic will be 'Creating Extent Accounts to Understand Land Use Change in Terms of Irish Forests'. Register here by June 16.

Project postdoctoral researcher Francesco Martini will be presenting the work of the ForES project to date, including building extent accounts at specific Coillte sites in Ireland, at the Botany2023 conference in Boise, Idaho, USA. This will be a hybrid event on July 22-26, with some presentations available to view through the event portal - sign up here.

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