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About one tenth of the land in Ireland is covered by commercial forestry. Commercial forestry is considered to be a significant pressure in the case of about 20% of our high status objective waters bodies which are “at Risk” of not achieving their water quality objectives.

Forestry pressures

Forestry activities can impact on water quality by the release of nutrients and sediment to rivers and lakes. Forestry may also cause acidification, physical changes to habitats and changes in water level and/or flow.

If too much fine sediment is released into our rivers and lakes it can interfere with some aquatic ecosystems by filling the spaces between larger gravels in the stream bed. Freshwater Pearl Mussel, which are a critically endangered species are very sensitive to fine sediment. It is very important that forestry activities which may negatively impact water quality are planned and managed correctly to protect species like the Freshwater Pearl Mussel.

Nutrient losses from forestry sources may also affect water quality within high-status objective catchments by causing eutrophication in our water bodies. Eutrophication occurs when excessive amounts of nutrients run-off the land and enter a waterbody, causing a dense growth of plant life. This reduces the oxygen concentration in the water and makes it difficult for certain species to survive.

The Waters of LIFE project will be working with forest owners to explore ways of reducing impacts within the pilot catchments. For more information on the effects of forestry on water quality, please go to