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Agro-forestry in Ireland

Reforestation can mitigate global warming as trees sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide. In Europe Ireland stands out as one of the countries with high potential to increase its forest cover. According to national policies forests could expand to cover 18% of the total landmass in 2050, in contrast to 11% at present. To reach this target approximately 15.000 ha of forest growth per year is needed for the coming 30 years. Reforestation is most likely to occur on lands that are currently in use as pastures. However, many farmers have a dismissive attitude towards changing to forestry. A less rigorous alternative is the transition to agroforestry which is also more sustainable in comparison to the commonly practiced Sitka spruce plantation forests. Instead of fast growing tree species, wild cherry (Prunus avium) is known to be a good alternative as it is often cultivated in temperate agroforestry systems and is highly valued for its fruit and timber.


By identifying the most suitable locations for wild cherry, targeted policies and actions can be developed to facilitate and incentivize the transition to agroforestry.

Wild cherries


A desk-top study with statistical analysis, literature research and contact with a forestry expert and QUICKScan expert.


250x250m resolution: altitude, slope, soil type, soil pH, mean annual temperature, mean annual precipitation, wind speed


Through a GIS-based land suitability analysis using national, European and global data sets priority areas for wild cherry growth on pastures can be located. Literature study and expert opinions were used to define optimal growing conditions for various climatic, soil and topographic parameters. However, the development of deterministic rules to combine these data was hampered by knowledge gaps and scale issues. Bayesian Belief Networks were able to deal with incomplete knowledge and data, mix quantitative and qualitative (expert) knowledge while at the same time considering probabilities to spatially calculate wild cherry suitabilities. QUICKScan has been used to develop the wild cherry land suitability maps.


Cows grazing in agro-forestry


  • de Haan, R., Nabuurs, G., Verweij, P., 2020, A GIS-based land suitability analysis for productive growth of wild cherry (Prunus avium) on silvopastures in Ireland, iEMSs conference - modelling for environmental sustainability, Brussels
  • de Haan, R., 2020, A GIS-based land suitability analysis for productive growth of wild cherry (Prunus avium ) on pastures in Ireland, MSc thesis and MSc presentation Forest Ecology and Management Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre