Developers in Dublin will be required to maintain the diversity of plant and animal life in the sites they build on, under a new biodiversity plan for the city.
The Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan also suggests incentives for developers who take steps to ensure that plant and animal life is maintained and enhanced when they construct new buildings.
The four-year plan, which aims to protect the city's natural heritage and minimise the loss of biodiversity, also calls on Dubliners to play their part in encouraging plant and animal life.
"Halting the loss of biodiversity is a significant challenge for all of us and requires urgent and informed action," says Dublin city manager John Tierney. Among the threats identified are the loss of habitats, their fragmentation and the arrival of invasive species that quickly take over spaces previously occupied by a native species.
About 25 per cent of Dublin's land area is in private gardens, a mapping project carried out for the plan has established. The plan says this is a considerable resource that can add to the city's natural heritage by providing cover, feeding and commuting routes for hedgehogs, badgers, breeding birds and other wildlife.
Gardeners can help by providing berry-bearing and flowering plants; for example, rowan and cherry trees and the humble dandelion can give food and/or shelter to a wide range of animals. Providing ponds is another way of boosting biodiversity for frogs, water beetles, pond snails and dragonflies, and neutering cats, and putting bells on their collars, helps urban birds.
Increased biodiversity can help Dublin cope with the effects of climate change, the plan suggests. Biodiversity can make the city more carbon neutral as vegetation absorbs CO2. To cope with extreme weather, soft landscaping and green roofs will reduce run-off and help avoid flooding. Green spaces and mature planting can help counteract the danger of overheating in areas with a high proportion of concrete.
The plan highlights the rich variety of animal life already in the city. Some 33 different species of wild bird live in Dublin Bay and there is an average of one fox family per square kilometre of the city. Foxes breed in Merrion Square and in gardens adjacent to St Stephen's Green.
Other species present in Dublin are seven types of bat, seals, otters, badgers, hares rabbits, dolphins and whales.
Areas listed for special conservation or protection include Dublin Bay, North Bull Island, the Glenasmole Valley, Sandymount Strand and the Tolka Estuary.
Aside from the 25 per cent in gardens, 20 per cent of the city's land is in other green space, such as grassland, woods and some remaining hedgerows.
© 2007 The Irish Times