Plans to restore Leap's "rainforest"
Volunteers are invited to a "meitheal" this weekend to plant native trees as a stepping stone to restoring a precious "Atlantic Rainforest" ecosystem in West Cork.
Volunteers can dig in to actively protecting County Cork’s biodiversity this weekend, with a “meitheal” at Myross Wood House in Leap, where an acre of new native tree species will be planted.
The Atlantic Rainforest Restoration Project hopes to clear an acre that has suffered storm damage and the planting of non-native trees and shrubs, and replant it in native oak, holly and hazel over the course of the weekend.
A former seminary and retreat centre run by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Myross Wood House has been home to the Centre of Excellence for Climate Action and Sustainability (CECAS), run by environmental non-profit Green Skibbereen CLG, since the autumn of 2020.
Mark Robins, a conservation and biodiversity expert from Schull and the co-ordinator of the Myross woodland restoration project, said he hoped to get a good turnout for what would be a physically demanding but challenging weekend.
“We’re at the beginning of the big task of restoring these two pieces of woodland,” he said. “Really, what we’re going to be doing is replacing a damaged piece of woodland with a good piece of woodland.”
The project is being part funded by Department of Agriculture’s Woodland Development Fund.
Atlantic Rainforest: “literally dripping with life.”
Although people associate the term “rainforest” with places like the Amazon, Mark said the term is increasingly used to describe the forests found along the coast of the Atlantic, including Ireland’s west coast.
“It’s well established now that up the Atlantic coast, where you get a very wet climate, you get a type of woodland that is very rich in biodiversity and epiphytes, tree-dwelling species like ferns, that live on the trees and create this incredible ecosystem,” he said.
“Glengarriff is a good example: there are big old ancient oak trees with holly and hazel understory, a whole load of flowering plants. These forests are literally dripping with life.”
He said there were indications that some of the forested areas around Myross Wood House were remnants of ancient woodland.
12.1% of County Cork’s land is forested, but the vast majority of this is commercial forestry, with non-native Sitka Spruce accounting for 46% of all forest cover.
Between 1% and 2% of land is covered with native woodland, while the remnants of Ireland’s original ancient forest cover amount to just 0.1% in West Cork, Mark estimates.
“Long-term green infrastructure”
“It would be good to see ten times as much native woodland as there is,” he said. “And the first thing to do is to restore and expand the fragments we have left.”
“It’s a very lengthy project; we’re looking 20, 40, 50 years into the future, into creating a long-term green infrastructure.”
Friends of Myross Wood Meitheal Weekend is on Saturday November 26 and Sunday November 27. To volunteer, contact Mark Robins on firstname.lastname@example.org
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