Celt Biodiversity Submission

CELT have made a submission to the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity and we need YOUR support please to get our proposals noticed and make the Government take urgent action. 

We propose more and bigger supports and funding for biodiversity education, training and awareness-raising projects such as our current highly successful Woodland Support programme of Open Days, Field Trips, Webinars and information dissemination and our equally successful partnership with Abhainn Dá Loilíoch Woodland Group and Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) in an on-going Citizen Science biodiversity training project. 

These projects involve communities and landowners in on-site training to monitor biodiversity and to encourage and initiate practical measures to improve and enhance the natural world in their care in ways that also benefit their existing land management needs.

Healthy biodiversity is crucial to the health of people, animals, plants and soils.  Natural healthy ecosystems provide oxygen, sequester carbon and extract pollutants. 

A healthy ecosystem has a natural food chain with wildlife from top predators down to microscopic organisms in the soil.  For each single top predator in an ecosystem, there needs to be millions of micro-organisms providing food for hundreds of thousands of insects, in turn providing food for thousands of small mammals and birds which are food for the predator.  The loss of any one element in this food chain has a knock-on effect traumatising the whole ecosystem. 

Connective wildlife corridors can provide access for animals, birds and insects to move between ecosystems and replace some losses, however it is clearly important to prevent further loss by dealing with the cause.

Ireland’s Fourth National Biodiversity Action Plan 2023-2027 needs to recognise the urgency to address biodiversity loss and provide visionary and enforceable policies to reverse the loss.  Despite the Irish government’s declaration of 2019 that we face a climate and biodiversity emergency, ecosystems continue to be damaged, habitats destroyed and species are still being pushed to the edge of extinction.  Biodiversity directly impacts the health of people, flora and fauna and actions must be taken to stop this loss, otherwise we become part of the mass extinction. 

Ireland should be a world leader in addressing this crisis.  Government must tackle the crisis and change policies accordingly. Human consumption patterns are the root cause of biodiversity loss and experts warn that the destruction of biodiversity is occurring at a rate unprecedented in human history.

Native species are important because they have developed relationships with other native species over hundreds or thousands of years.  Native oaks are known to have relationships with over 600 other species of flora and fauna whereas more recently ‘naturalised’ species have only had time to develop a handful of such relationships.  Climate change means that, in the northern hemisphere, some native species are gradually moving their naturally preferred habitats (as average temperatures rise) in a northerly direction and other non-native species are moving in from the south.  Some species can move more easily than others and there is the added threat of disease organisms being brought in on the wind or courtesy of human malpractice. 

Adaptation to climate change means that we should allow the introduction and naturalisation of some appropriate species to replace losses.  For instance, ash die-back (a fungal infection) creates an opportunity for more walnut, sweet chestnut and possibly other species to become part of our woodland ecosystems, although their relationships with native species will take a long time to develop.  Each tree species needs appropriate pollinators, seed dispersal agents, bacteria and fungi in order to flourish and proliferate.  Scientists need to identify what is needed and, if thought necessary, some of these organisms may also need to be introduced and for bio-security, it has to be determined what can safely be done.

Nutrition is an important aspect of biodiversity.  Humans, animals, birds and plant species each need a specific cocktail of nutrients, along with clean air and water, for good health.  The cocktail includes trace elements from the underlying rocks and sub-soil, which are brought to the surface by the deep roots of trees and distributed via leaf litter.  Thus trees form an essential element of any healthy land-based ecosystem.  Even broad meadows and boglands benefit from the scattering of leaf litter from neighbouring trees.

Ireland’s natural ecosystem on land is native oak forest, which once covered 80% of the island. This has been reduced to perhaps only 1% today.  We now have opportunity to extend and reconnect existing woodlands through sustainable forest management (planting more native trees and woodlands amongst existing commercial plantations), rewilding, regenerative farming and agroforestry.  CELT are currently supporting Woodland League and community groups working towards the Great Forest of Aughty project to reconnect woodlands throughout the Slieve Aughty region and the Abhainn Dá Loilíoch Woodland Group, a local community Citizen Science project (in partnership with Local Authority Waters Programme) to enhance biodiversity along a riparian buffer zone reconnecting three remnant ancient woodlands.  These projects can be replicated nationwide to help stem biodiversity loss.

CELT propose some relatively quick, easy and inexpensive actions for biodiversity :

·         Tree nurseries :  there is an urgent need to grow more trees from seed, especially native species (for various uses) and suitable fruit and nut species for use in agroforestry systems.  It is essential to use seed from certified Irish sources to ensure provenance and biosecurity.  Funding is needed to provide education and training in best practice and to construct protective fences and seed beds.

 

·         Development of coppice management systems:  Broadleaf trees can be cut near the base and, due to existing roots, will quickly grow new shoots (this does not happen with conifers).  After a few years (depending on species) the new growth can be cut for various uses such as firewood and crafts (e.g. furniture, tools, sports items, kitchen equipment).  A regime can be developed, cutting a different area each year, so that the woodland becomes structurally diverse which is highly beneficial to biodiversity (especially ground flora and insects and their predators).  Coppicing and pollarding were once common throughout Europe and a popular system was ‘coppice with standards’ which allowed some trees to reach maturity.  Funding is needed for education, training and practical implementation.

 

·         Hedgerow development:  Well developed A-shaped hedges are beneficial to birds and insects (including pollinators and predators).  Appropriate tree planting incorporated into hedgerows helps provide shelter and creates a warmer micro-climate which allows for a longer grass or crop growing season.  According to Professor Jim McAdam (Queens University Belfast and Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Loughgall), grazing animals can be outdoors for up to 4 months longer each year (although some supplementary feed may be necessary).  This is a win-win for farmers and the environment.

 

·         Water management :  Ponds and swales throughout the uplands with slow percolation (flood mitigation) and ‘leaky dams’ at intervals along water-courses.  Upland drainage should follow close to contours so as to slow the flow.  This is particularly relevant to forestry plantations which have usually been done with vertically-aligned drainage which causes flash floods and must be banned.  Well designed ponds and drainage are good habitats for a variety of aquatic organisms.

 

·         River system management ecological improvements:  biodiverse riparian zones and winding rivers create rich ecosystems.  Careful adjustment of rocks and fallen trees, along with appropriate native species planting can create diverse habitats for a wide variety of species.  Avoidance of pollution and illegal dumping obviously make a difference and require enforcement by local authorities supported by government and the law.

Download the PDF Below. We welcome all comments and feedback on the Submission and ideas from you, please email to coordinatorcelt@gmail.com and share your opinion! 

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