Our research can be seen as anthropological, ecological and a little bit historical. Ultimately this research is important to anyone concerned with the relationship between a culture’s values and their environmental practices, with an emphasis on ecology. This project caters to the work of anthropologists as well as ecologists, policy makers and activists working with different cultures (especially if it’s the Irish). Specifically, we dove into the ecological, economic and cultural aspects of trees. Trees serve a myriad of values worldwide. Wood is harvested and used in a large array of products, from tables to books to energy. Trees relate to climate change, to biodiversity and to economics. The sequester carbon and release oxygen. 5 million terrestrial species rely on trees and a square kilometer can host over 1,000 species (AmericanForests.org, 2016, Forest Facts, American Forests, http://www.americanforests.org/explore-forests/forest-facts/). Wood and forestry industries have the ability to provide a large array of jobs along different divisions of the work and at different levels of supply chains. Forests also tend to be areas of large recreational importance. Trees ask the question, how do you balance economics and recreation with environmental awareness? As stated by the U.S. Forest Service, “forests provide economic opportunities as well as many indirect benefits, such as clean air and water. Forests and open space also offer invaluable recreational opportunities, providing us with a healthy sense of well-being,” (U.S. Forest Service, People and Forests, United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.fs.fed.us/science-technology/people-forests).
Ireland is an especially interesting place to investigate in terms of forestry, because it is a country with relatively very few trees, yet growing forestry management. Ireland seem to have a culture which values trees and have a desire for them although they have few. This can be seen in the Forestry sectors intense focus on afforesting. Understanding cultural values in relation to forestry is a way to understand how to best work with a culture to develop forestry in a way that best suits them.
Deforestation is a worldwide problem. Every country has a part. Whether or not there is importance in focusing on countries with few forests (like Ireland) or countries like Brazil, which are extremely dense in forests is beyond the research done for this project. The value in focusing on forestry in countries which are very tree dense or not at all would make make great follow up research that would allow for a better understanding of what regions of the world should be prioritized. It would be worthwhile to also build off of this research from a more evaluative and instrumental approach, looking at what forestry goals of Ireland are feasible and worthwhile, and how to implement such changes. Our research is a good basis for this; looking at the cultural perspective on forestry allows for a more appropriate and suitable approach to creating Irish forestry solutions.
Analysis of data:
Heritage trees, to those that live in Ireland, are an important and significant part of their culture and history. We see that they really seem to value them, but that the focus on them comes largely from smaller cities and towns within Ireland, and even further those that lie far away from main cities (O’Neill, Barry. 2016. “Heritage Trees of Ireland.” National Biodiversity Data Centre. https://data.gov.ie/dataset/heritage-trees-of-ireland.). We got this interpretation from qualitative data, such as the sources that we read from and the smaller organizations sites that talked about heritage trees (Crann Trees for Ireland, Tree Council of Ireland, Forestry Focus). In terms of quantitative data, the metadata map that was produced on QGIS suggested that a larger portion of cities and towns have more heritage trees in them but we understand that they’re more susceptible to development and industrialization so it’s totally plausible that there once was even more heritage trees where there are now towns. The main idea is that, while the metadata map says that there are slightly more heritage trees in cities like Dublin and more industrialized areas, the advocacy and focus on heritage trees comes from smaller cities and towns and in rural areas. Smaller cities and towns have the ability to focus on culture and heritage and value their history more because they don’t face the hustle and bustle of hectic city life, and the general feeling of the communities is one of family, love, kindness, and close-knit cultural values. They place special benches, carve artwork into the trees, and place memorials around the trees because the society around them is centered on respecting those parts of their past. It seems, however, that activists are trying to advocate for the safety, livelihood and longevity of the trees (Crann Trees for Ireland. “Heritage Tree Hunt Survey.” www.crann.ie/heritage_tree_hunt_survey-objectid-1061-recordid-62-z-project.htm.). The National Biodiversity Data Centre has made a map of projected heritage tree land areas and it is way larger and more expansive than what is currently there, so we can understand that the heritage trees are in the radar of the government, or at least Ireland’s forestry department.
Since we can see and understand that heritage trees are an important and significant part of a lot of people’s values and histories (even though it may primarily fall into areas with small towns and cities), we interpret that Ireland is actively working to create bigger and better spaces for the heritage trees to survive in their future projected forest land areas because of the people’s push to do so. In other words, the people (in this particular case, this may not be true for other instances) are directly influencing what the Forestry Management sector of Ireland is going to be doing when they are working with forests.
In terms of understanding the land use data, it seems the difference in forest area and forest extent can best be explained by the emphasis of afforestation. It seems the Irish are more interested in the increase of forest area that can be used for recreational and economic purposes than the actual amount of trees in Ireland. Our qualitative data showed a large amount of interest in the health benefits of visiting trees and the amount of jobs related to logging/timber supplies. So, while more forest area is created, Ireland is still mostly rural and still lacks trees and continues to use this particular natural resource for both timber and energy.
AmericanForests.org. 2016. Forest Facts. American Forests. http://www.americanforests.org/explore-forests/forest-facts./
Crann Trees for Ireland. “Heritage Tree Hunt Survey.” www.crann.ie/heritage_tree_hunt_survey-objectid-1061-recordid-62-z-project.htm.
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. 2014. Forests, products and people. Ireland’s forest policy – a renewed vision. Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, Dublin.
Forest Sector Development/COFORD Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (2014). Irish Forests and the Economy. COFORD. http://www.coford.ie/.
Forest Sector Development/COFORD Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (2014). Irish Forests and Recreation. COFORD. http://www.coford.ie/.
O’Neill, Barry. 2016. “Heritage Trees of Ireland.” National Biodiversity Data Centre. https://data.gov.ie/dataset/heritage-trees-of-ireland.
UNEP (2016): The UNEP Environmental Data Explorer, as compiled from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2010 . United Nations Environment Programme. http://ede.grid.unep.ch.
UNEP (2016): The UNEP Environmental Data Explorer, as compiled from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – FAOStat . United Nations Environment Programme. http://ede.grid.unep.ch.
U.S. Forest Service. People and Forests. United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.fs.fed.us/science-technology/people-forests.