Thursday 14 February 2008

Dublin unveils plan to protect biodiversity

A major strategy to protect animal, plant and insect species - and the areas where they are found - in the capital has been drawn up by Dublin City Council.

It hopes the Dublin City Biodiversity Action Plan 2008-2012 will give citizens a greater appreciation of, and respect for, the city's flora and fauna.

The five-year initiative to enhance the natural environment is the first produced for an Irish city and is being co-ordinated by the council's full-time biodiversity officer Mairead Stack.

The action plan was launched last night by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Paddy Bourke, who said "over a million people enjoy biodiversity in Dublin every day, simply by spending time in their own gardens, walking in their local park, woodland or along the seafront and watching wildfowl swimming in the local pond".

The project has involved extensive consultation among the council's planning, parks, engineering, drainage and architecture departments and provides for conservation and educational measures to "ensure the survival of the natural world" in the city following extensive building development in recent years.

Habitats and species, such as wetlands, semi-natural grasslands, urban trees, hedgerows, endangered plants, red squirrels, otters, bats, birds, butterflies, salmon/trout species, water beetles, dragon flies, moths and bees, will be given special status by the council when it comes to assessing the risk to them from future planning developments.

According to the council, thousands of foxes live in the city, with an average density of one family per sq km, although some areas have four to five times this density. The policy also outlines the need for an integrated management plan for Dublin Bay to take heed of its international ecological status, habitats and bird life.

The plan also aims to identify and protect biodiversity hotspots and create a series of wildlife "corridors", with additional shrubs and trees, throughout the city to allow animals move freely around the built-up environment.

Council officials want communities to take a more active part in enhancing their environment by being involved in the likes of a "NeighbourWood" scheme - where residents' associations take care of local wildlife spaces. The council is calling on businesses to help fund projects that will benefit the natural world.

Production of the plan has been funded by the Heritage Council and the council, but costs have not been disclosed.

A 2004 survey of 63 graveyards in the capital showed 26 species of birds, 15 different habitats, and 15 different species of mammals were present, including rodents, foxes, badgers and bats.

The initiative also provides for a tree survey and the development of a tree strategy for the city; the identification and protection of creature resting places; and best practice management of sand and mud flat areas along south and north Dublin Bay.

Other proposals include a programme to manage invasive species such as grey squirrels, a wildlife-friendly garden for public education, a biodiversity educational centre and wildlife gardens in schools.

The Irish Times

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