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Updated: Mar 4

The concept of agroforestry can seem intimidating. Breaking it down: agro- (Greek, means “field”) and forestry (Latin, means “the outside woods”). Having the literal definition is just the starting point, now, what does agroforestry actually mean? Here, Trinity College Dublin PhD candidate Kathleen Conroy explains a little bit more on the concept.

Agroforestry is a type of multi-use land management which combines the forestry and agriculture industries. Under agroforestry, land is used for agriculture and forestry purposes simultaneously. When done properly, agroforestry can be an attractive land management option. Forestry and agriculture used together can be mutually beneficial, creating opportunities that would not be available by using the land for a single purpose, such as additional sources of sustainable on-farm revenue, contributing to animal welfare and productivity levels, and enhancing biodiversity, drainage, soil health and nutrient capture.

Existing in many forms globally, there are five main types of agroforestry in Europe. These include silvopastoral (livestock and trees), silvoarable (crops and trees), hedgerows promoting water quality, harvesting forest produce (i.e., mushrooms), and home gardens. Each type offers unique benefits and a landowner would choose one based on their needs. In Ireland, agroforestry takes the form of animal grazing and grass/hay production.

Specific guidelines are followed to ensure proper forest development. In Ireland, under the agroforestry regulations, oak, sycamore, and cherry trees are grown only (Teagasc 2020). Although if a site has conditions that promote other trees, this can be taken into consideration. With the minimum land requirement of 0.5 hectares (Teagasc 2020), many people can avail of this land management opportunity.

Also, when raising young animals, the farmer must provide a shelter around the young developing trees to protect them from being damaged by grazing (Teagasc 2020). Once the trees are strong enough, larger animals may be introduced. If a farmer is producing hay and crops on their land, at harvest, they must use special machinery and caution so as to cause no damage to the trees (Teagasc 2020).

To make agroforestry more enticing, Department of Agriculture grants have been made available for landowners who wish to participate. Since 2015, 18 grants have been approved and subsequently planted for a total of 42 hectares of land (Cadogan 2022), a much lower uptake than expected. It is believed that along with financial incentives, other complex factors such as the farmers’ values and goals likely influence their decision whether to participate (McDonagh et al. 2010, Duesberg et al. 2014). Despite the low rate to date, agroforestry has the potential for growth in Ireland, a topic which we will look at in more depth in future blogs.

More Information:


Agroforestry - Fact Sheet (2020) Teagasc. Teagasc Forestry Development Department. Available at: (Accessed: February 22, 2023).

Duesberg, S., Upton, V., O'Connor, D. & Dhubháin, Á. (2014) “Factors influencing Irish farmers' afforestation intention”. Forest Policy and Economics, 39, 13-20.

Cadogan, S. (2022) “Farm View: Landowners slow to take up agroforestry,” Irish Examiner, 6 April. Available at: (Accessed: February 22, 2023).

McDonagh, J., Farrell, M., Mahon, M. & Ryan, M. (2010) “New opportunities and cautionary steps? Farmers, forestry and rural development in Ireland”. European Countryside, 2, 236.

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Updated: Feb 18

The ForES project is seeking to recruit a Postdoctoral Researcher. The position is for 2 years and the successful applicant will work with the team at Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and practitioners at Coillte using Natural Capital Accounting approaches to co-develop tools for sustainable forestry management decision-making.

Green ForEs logo with gold and white title and branch symbol

This is an academic research role, where you will conduct a specified programme of research supported by research training and development under the supervision and direction of a Principal Investigator.

The primary purpose of the role is to further develop your research skills and competences, including the processes of publication in peer-reviewed academic publications, the development of funding proposals, the mentorship of graduate students along with the opportunity to develop your skills in research led teaching.

Applicants must have:

- PhD in ecology, environmental sciences, forestry, environmental/ecosystem management, ecosystem services, natural capital, ecological economics, environmental decision-making or similar.

- Experience in ecosystem services assessment, preferably related to forestry.

- Knowledge of ecological modelling, preferably Bayesian belief network modelling

The successful candidate will carry out the following duties specific to this project:

Develop a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) to model the delivery of ecosystem services from selected forest sites and the effects of different management scenarios on ecosystem service delivery. The BBN will be incorporated into a decision support tool in collaboration with researchers in Trinity College Dublin

Salary range: €41,209 - €43,669 per annum

Appointment on the above range will be dependent on qualifications and experience

Closing date: 17:00hrs (local Irish time) on 03rd March 2023


Search for "External Jobs", "Research", "Biology and Environmental Sciences", Job Ref 015630

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Updated: Feb 13

Kathleen Conroy, our ForES PhD at Trinity College Dublin, writes a potted history of Irish forests, when and why deforestation on a major scale began - & when the comeback started...

It can be hard to imagine that counties Meath, Louth and Limerick were covered in

forests at one time. In fact, most of Ireland was forested about 9,000 years ago. Looking at

pollen records, plants became established in Ireland approximately 13,000 years ago with

trees arriving 9,600 years ago (Mitchell et al. 2006).

Because Ireland is a small island nation, it did not experience as great a plant diversity as seen in larger countries. However, being in an ideal climatic region, Ireland was able to support a number of different tree species. As Ireland became more settled and with the arrival of farming, deforestation began 5,500 years ago (Smith, 1974).

Even with an ideal temperate oceanic climate, characterised by milder temperatures with plentiful rainfall, Ireland has one of the smallest forest areas in the European Union. At present, Ireland is estimated to be 11% forested, which is significantly less than the average forest cover in the EU (~30%). Although low, this is the largest forest cover Ireland has seen in centuries (Figure 1). This was fuelled by government action and public interest in the 20th century.

Graph showing forest cover in Ireland from 1675-2025 with a steep upward red line from 1925
Fig 1: Twenties turning point - graph showing forest cover in Ireland from 1675-present (DAFM, 2020)

Ireland maintained a low forest area for many reasons, some natural (for example lands transitioning to peatlands which cannot support forest ecosystems) and some anthropogenic (for example burning down forests). One major cause for the extensive deforestation was clearing the land for agriculture (i.e., crops and livestock). Forests were seen as wasted land; an unfortunate view still held by some today. Some landowners will plant trees only on land that is too poor to do anything else, such as land that is not suitable for livestock grazing.

With education, outreach and a number of incentives, forestry is becoming much more important and appealing to landowners and the public. This change in understanding forestry is essential, so that Ireland will grow to an 18% forested country by 2050 as set by the Irish Government. Our ForES project aims to play a key part in developing innovative forestry tools to enhance the sustainability and diversity of these new and existing forests.


Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. 2020. Forest Statistics Ireland 2020.

DAFM, Johnstown Castle Estate, Co. Wexford.

Mitchell, F. J. G. 2006. Where Did Irish Trees Come From? Biology and Environment:

Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 106B.

Smith, I. F. 1974. The Neolithic. In British Prehistory: a new outline (ed. C. Renfrew).

Duckworth, London, 100-1 36.

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