The ancient wild forests that stood for 9,000 years were cleared long ago. Since the Norman invasions, Ireland’s wild forests cover only 0.02 percent of the country. But remnants of these legendary forests exist and, with help from some innovative Americans, they could be flourishing again in years to come.
The DNA from the last remaining aboriginal native sessile and common oaks around Ireland were taken by tree surgeons of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive project in Michigan. The resulting saplings – oaks taken from the Brian Boru, a huge live oak over 1,000 years old in Raheen, near Scarriff, County Clare, from the King Oak tree in Offaly, and holly cut from the largest holly tree in Ireland (more than 8m in circumference), in Killarney – are direct descendants of the ancient Irish forests that flourished after the Ice Age.
“We want to help Ireland reforest itself,” says Archangel Project co-founder David Milarch. “It’s imperative to reforest the planet, and it makes sense to use the oldest, most iconic trees that ever lived.”
The idea of forests again growing throughout Ireland is an exciting and even romantic idea. But the tangible benefits of these new growth forests to both wildlife and the people of Ireland – from soil erosion prevention to the growth of new habitat to the potential for carbon storage, will be huge.
For more information on the reforestation of Ireland, click here.