Background: In common with many other countries, native forest in the Ireland is under pressure from a variety of sources. Although the area of forest has increased to 10.5% of the land area of Ireland, this is comprised mainly of exotic conifer species (6.8%). Native species woodland represents only 100,000 hectares (1.4%) of the land area. In addition, much of this area is fragmented and comprised of a narrow range of species. Just 20,000 hectares is represented by woodland resembling the ancient woodland that once covered much of Ireland.
Methods: This paper examines the natural capital value of the existing area of woodland as represented by the value of the ecosystem services it provides.
Results: The results demonstrate a significant economic value in excess of €67 million per year. We discuss the consequences of the erosion of this value that could result from continued mismanagement of native woodland. The results show that current government policy is failing to realise the economic value of native woodland and is deficient in terms of the continuity of support.
Conclusions: The paper demonstrates the very significant values that could be supplied by a gradual expansion of woodland area up to 100% of the current forested area, especially if this expansion is targeted at areas with the highest potential for amenity and water resource protection.