Report finds status of EU-protected Habitats in Ireland ‘unfavourable’ but majority of species ‘stable or improving’

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, has welcomed the publication of the summary report by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) which provides an overview of Ireland’s 3rd assessment on the status of EU-listed habitats and species which was submitted to the European Commission in April 2019.

Minister Madigan says the report highlights the challenges to conserve biodiversity in Ireland and the need for all sectors of society to work together to address it.

85% of habitats are reported as being in Unfavourable status (46% Unfavourable inadequate and 39% Unfavourable bad) with 46% demonstrating ongoing declines. The status of EU listed species is somewhat better with 57% assessed as Favourable and 30% of assessed as being in Unfavourable status (i.e. Inadequate and Bad), with 72% demonstrating stable or improving trends while 15% demonstrating on-going declining trends.

Minister Josepha Madigan said “we have programmes ongoing which implement measures to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species considered vulnerable at European level and  listed on the EU Habitats Directive. Ireland has 59 habitats and 68 species listed on the Directive”.

Many positive actions across Ireland include:

  • The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) Management Plan 2017-2022 sets out a roadmap for the restoration and conservation of raised bog SACs in Ireland. The Plan sets an overall target of achieving 3,747 ha of active raised bog within the network of SACs and Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs). 12 Raised bogs are being restored as part of the LIFE funded Living Bog programme.
  • There are 23 European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) on-going, many of which are focussed on ‘restoring, preserving and enhancing biodiversity’; these have the potential to positively impact on habitats and species listed on the Habitats Directive
  • The Native Woodland Scheme supports the restoration of existing native woodland and the targeted conversion of conifer stands into native woodland.
  • An EU deep sea trawling ban applies below 800m for rolling gears, this will protect deep sea corals. A ban on inshore trawling by large boats will be put in place and protect nursery grounds.
  • A catchment approach has been adopted under the EU Water Framework Directive to ensure consideration of both water and flooding issues within land use planning and a total of 726 waterbodies have been identified within 190 Priority Areas for Action. This will ensure improved targeting of measures for freshwater and transitional waters including lagoons, for example through advice to farmers and through financial support for urban wastewater treatment and for improved domestic treatment systems.

Dr. Deirdre Lynn of the NPWS says “the unfavourable status of many of our habitats is, regrettably, unsurprising as this is the reason they have been listed on the Directive; it is, however, the ongoing declines that are of concern, particularly in our peatland, grassland, woodland and marine habitats.” She added that “the main drivers of the habitat decline are agricultural practices which are negatively impacting over 70% of habitats, particularly ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution.” 

Notes to Editor:

All reports will be available for download at https://www.npws.ie/article-17-reports-0 by close of business 21/08/19.

–  A summary report has been published by the NPWS which provides an overview of the assessment methodologies and the main findings of the assessments. Detailed reports have also been published exceeding 2000 pages of assessments. These assessments were undertaken by over 40 scientific experts in NPWS, Inland Fisheries Ireland and external experts.

The species listed on the Directive include all whale and dolphin species, all bat species, other mammals such as otter, hare and pine marten; eight plant species, seven invertebrate species, seven fish species and three amphibian and reptile species. These species are a small subset of Ireland’s full species complement, but many are important indicators of wider ecosystem health. Birds are not listed on this Directive. Ireland is a European stronghold for many of the listed species (e.g. otter (Lutra lutra) and petalwort (Petalophyllum ralfsii)).

The assessments follow a rules-based approach agreed at EU level. Habitats and species can be assessed as Favourable, Unfavourable inadequate or Unfavourable bad.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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