I propose to take Questions Nos. 613 and 614 together.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine currently reports and accounts for all forests that meet the definition of a forest as described in the Forestry Act 2014 and Land Use, Land Use Change and Forest (LULUCF) regulation. The definition of a forest is defined as areas which are 0.1 hectares or more in size and which have the capacity to reach at least 5 meters in height and with a minimum canopy cover of at least 20%. Ireland uses this definition as defined in the LULUCF regulation to account for all forest plots that meet this criteria.
Although Individual trees and groups of trees are important for biodiversity and do sequester carbon, they are not recorded against the forest land use categories as defined in the LULUCF regulation. Individual trees are similar to hedgerows in that they can only be accounted in other cropland and grassland categories if there are detailed national inventory data to support their inclusion. Ireland does not account for hedgerows or individual trees specifically but research is ongoing by the EPA and Teagasc to examine methods of potentially including such areas in future inventories.
However, more detailed work is required to determine and map the extent of such features in the landscape which is a significant task. It is also worth noting that, if such features are recorded, Ireland could only account for the additional trees and hedgerows planted. If there were less hedgerows and individual trees recorded than in previous years, Ireland would have to account this as an emission of carbon dioxide.
The Department does not intend to change the definition of a forest and will continue to account for all forests that meet the current definition. Plots that fall below this area threshold may be included at a future date under non forest land use categories and will be informed by existing and further research.