Thursday, 9 October 2008

'Bad conservation status' in many important habitats

MANY OF Ireland’s most important habitats are reported to be of “bad conservation status”, the EPA report states.

It concludes that much of Ireland’s dune systems, raised and blanket bogs, lakes, fens and mires, natural grasslands and woodlands are suffering from environmental degradation.

Certain protected species, particularly in wetlands and aquatic environments, are also reported to be of bad conservation status – including the Atlantic salmon and freshwater pearl mussel.

The key threats to these important habitats and species are identified as direct habitat damage; overgrazing and undergrazing; water pollution; unsustainable exploitation; invasive alien species; and recreational pressure.

This has already led to problems for Ireland with the European Court of Justice ruling in January 2007 that the State did not have a strict system in place for protection of a list of named species, because of the failure to monitor and protect species from development projects.

In addition, the EU’s Environmental Liabilities Directive has not yet been transposed into Irish law and yesterday’s report concludes “it is clear that more proactive management and protection of protected sites will be required to address the issues raised . . .”

The report recommends “better planning at national, regional and local levels”. It adds that development plans “must include mandatory objectives for the conservation of the natural heritage and for the conservation of European sites” and other prescribed sites.

The report notes significant impacts on biodiversity in recent years, among them 16 of the 102 Irish bee species which are considered to be either “critically endangered” or “endangered”.

A recent assessment of the population status of Ireland’s birds indicates that of the 199 species assessed, 25 were placed on the red list, ie of most concern, 85 more were placed on on the amber list of generally unfavourable conservation status while 89 were on the green list, representing least concern.

The number of red-listed species has increased by seven and amber-listed species by eight since the first review in 1999.

The roseate tern and the hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) are the only red-listed species identified in 1999 to have since improved in conservation status.

The corn bunting (Miliaria calandra) has become extinct as a breeding bird in Ireland and several of the remaining red-listed species are in danger of extinction including the common scoter (Melanitta nigra), black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), quail (Coturnix coturnix), red-necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) and nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus).

The Irish Times

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