Irish Wildlife Under Threat Again!

Once again Irish wildlife finds itself under threat. If we weren’t causing enough harm to our local biodiversity the Minister for the for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, has proposed changes to the Wildlife Act that will allow for the burning of vegetation in March and the cutting of hedgerows in August. This will have a serious impact on many of our wild species but in particular wild birds and pollinators. Please sign this petition supported by the Irish Wildlife Trust, Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce and Hedge Laying Association of Ireland to try and stop this.

Last January people were ask to make submissions on the proposals. Here is an extract from my submission:

I have been involved in a number of country hedgerow surveys and so feel I have a good knowledge of their ecology. Changing cutting to the end of July would have serious impacts on the biodiversity of our hedgerows. We all know hedgerows are important to nesting birds but they are also vital for other wildlife including insects and in particular pollinators. Hundreds of insect species have been recorded using hedgerows (see references below – Corbett & Mole, 2005, Lewis, 1969 and Maudsley, 2000). Many butterfly species will use native hedgerows not only for finding food but also roosting, basking, mating and egg laying (Dover & Sparks, 2000). I have observed pollinators use both shrubs and climbers in hedgerows and the ground flora of hedgerows to gain vital pollen and nectar. We know that many species of pollinator are struggling with some species in decline. While on one hand there are initiatives such as the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan – (http://pollinators.biodiversityireland.ie/home/all-ireland-pollinator-plan-2015-2020/) to help protect these species, on the other hand consideration is being given to removing a vital form of food for them. Cutting hedgerows at the end of July removes many flowering plants from hedgerows, including brambles and ground flora. The removal of flowering bramble also reduces crops of blackberries which are an important food source for many of our wild birds and wild mammals. Cutting ground flora before they have time to self-seed is also likely to lead to decreases in flora diversity.

Burning heather at the time it is in full flower (July -September) would have a detrimental effect on many of our native pollinators. Honey bees are suffering declines worldwide due to numerous factors. According to the Irish bee keeping website (www.irishbeekeeping.ie/index.php/about-us/education/flowers-for-bees) Irish beekeepers get surplus crops of honey from a small number of plants, which include Ling and Bell heather. The website also states that severe cutting of hawthorn and blackberry in hedgerows will reduce flowering, thereby it is also detrimental to honey production. Bramble is second only to white clover as a valuable nectar producing plant, and in cooler summers it is the main source of the surplus Irish honey crop in most areas.

There is no doubt that hedgerows and upland vegetation must be managed appropriately, but an earlier cutting season is not appropriate. The loss of habitats and the general decline of wild flora in Ireland have both being linked to the decline in pollinators (pollinators.biodiversityireland.ie/bees/irelands-bees/why-are-irish-bees-declining/) and are likely to be factors in the decline of other species too.

It is vitally important that we protect our native biodiversity. In fact, under the “Actions for Biodiversity 2011-2016 (Ireland’s National Biodiversity Plan)” the State has signed up to do so. There are also financial reasons for us to protect habitats that provide food and homes to much of our native wildlife including pollinators. According to EU-funded research, pollination services provided by insects, mainly bees, are worth €153 billion a year, (http://pollinators.biodiversityireland.ie/home/the-value-of-pollinators/). There is so much more we need to be doing to protect our native wildlife. Please don’t take a backward step and put into force something which will be detrimental to our native biodiversity. In my opinion the closed period for cutting hedgerows should not be changed. My knowledge of burning vegetation is less extensive but again consideration must be given to allowing vegetation to flower before burning.

The majority of submissions were against changes to the act so why are changes being made? Who is lobbying for these changes? There is a general election just around the corner here in Ireland. Am I being cynical in thinking that the changes are being proposed to get votes?

 

 

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31 thoughts on “Irish Wildlife Under Threat Again!

  1. rainbowjunkiecorner

    From what you say it seems puzzling why they want to change things. MInd you I think ‘they’ only ask for people to comment in the hope of getting the answer they want. We almost had our water fluoridated inspite of the fact that something like 75% of local people were against. Only time saved us. I wonder who wants the change in your case.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      I think as citizens we need to become more vocal in expressing our concerns about issues that concern us otherwise we just get walked over.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Julie

    Well said, good luck with the campaign. I signed, its not clear though do you need 8,000 signatures to take this to parliament or why this woman wants to make these dreadful changes?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      According to Michael Viney, who publishes an excellent weekly column in the Irish Times newspaper “she [the Minister] granted, in “pilot measures”, much of what the Irish Farmers’ Association had been urging”

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  3. gaiainaction

    Thank you for doing this, I have signed of course as I feel strongly about the hedgerows here in Ireland, apart from being so very important to the wildlife, all the flowers make the country side so very beautiful. They are trying to push the Atlantic Way as a tourist attraction, well, when we see all the hedgerows raped and violently cut back (sometimes looks awful) then where is the attraction. It is again a very unwise idea of a politician. Let us hope that it works. Have shared it too.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Jane

    All signed and read and so will my 2 girls. What is the agenda with this woman and how can she even contemplate decimating what is clearly in need of protection. I wonder what good old David Attenborough thinks?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Thank you Jane – they were hoping to get 7000 signatures but just checked and they are already at 9,500 which is great. Hopefully people power will win out.

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  5. Claire Edwards

    Signed. It’s a ridiculous idea, more and more will go on the critical endangered list. My bird table is very busy at the minute and it’s a joy to watch, couldn’t imagine this being threatened. Thank goodness my neighbour (local farmer) only cuts the hedgerows a couple of times a year in winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Thank you Melissa. It’s sad to think that we have to fight for basic protection for our wonderful wildlife yet again

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