National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017 - 2021
In Ireland, 85% of EU protected habitats are reported as being in unfavourable status with 46% demonstrating ongoing declines. The main drivers of this decline are agricultural practices which are negatively impacting over 70% of habitats, particularly ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution. Of particular note are declines in peatlands and grasslands, and some of the marine habitats.
There is decline of 14% reported for bee species. There has been a 2.6% decline in the number of surface waters assessed as being in satisfactory ecological health. Short term assessments also undertaken for breeding and a selection of wintering bird populations reported declines of 18% and 52% respectively. Ireland's 3rd National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 is an over-arching Government policy that is comprised of a suite of Objectives, Targets and Actions that aim to achieve Ireland's Vision for Biodiversity that "biodiversity and ecosystems in Ireland are conserved and restored, delivering benefits essential for all sectors of society and that Ireland contributes to efforts to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems in the EU and globally". Many positive actions for Biodiversity have been taken since 2017. There has been considerable increase in awareness of, engagement in and collaboration on biodiversity issues. Clearly, much more needs to be done to reverse the trends in biodiversity loss. Ireland needs to avail of all relevant national and EU funding streams critical for biodiversity conservation and ensure that we are maximising the full range of potential financing mechanisms (e.g. payments for ecosystem services, biodiversity offsets, restoration of carbon sinks, fiscal transfers, etc.), together with improved targeting of existing measures for biodiversity. Accessing funds through the next CAP and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) will be critical to biodiversity conservation. A transformational approach is also required to ensure our consumption patterns are truly sustainable and to safeguard biodiversity on this island.
Some areas within the current Plan that were highlighted in the report as needing more emphasis include, amongst others:
- New farming models to aid the diversification of agriculture and appropriate reduction in intensification in some areas
- The development of a National Green Infrastructure Strategy to include agricultural landscapes
- Management Plans for protected habitats and species
- Restoration plans for species in severe decline
- Restructuring of legacy non-productive, badly-sited conifer plantations; especially on peatlands
- Further expansion of native woodland to ensure functioning natural woodland across the landscape
- The establishment of new frameworks for private sector investment and innovation
- The integration of natural capital accounts into decision making
- Invertebrate monitoring
- An Invasive Species Strategy
- Additional expertise across government to facilitate collaboration.
The above outline was taken from the Biodiversity Working Group (2020) Interim Review of the Implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017 -2021.
For the full Report see Interim Review of the Implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017 -2021
Seeing the wood in the forests
A timely new report *) from the European Forest Institute assesses how much wood we are likely to have now and in the future to support a transformational change, and explores the vast potential and implications for its uses.
We need to accelerate the transition from the existing global fossil and wasteful economy towards a renewable economy: a circular bioeconomy. If we are serious about mitigating climate change, we must find new ways to replace fossil and non-renewable raw materials, energy and products like concrete, steel, plastics or synthetic textiles with sustainable, renewable materials.
Wood is, in fact, the most versatile renewable material on earth and, from a sustainability and circular economy perspective, has a comparative advantage relative to other materials. Furthermore, forests, sustainable forest management and forest-based solutions can advance the bioeconomy while enhancing biodiversity and supporting wealth creation in rural and urban areas.
The European Forest Institute report considers the structural changes affecting the use of wood globally and the potential for innovation in forest-based product markets, from engineered wood products in the construction sector, pulp used for textiles, chemicals, bioplastics and energy, to the growing number of small niche markets, including cosmetics, food additives and pharmaceuticals. It explores the future demand for roundwood under business-as-usual scenarios and when contemplating trends which curb the use of wood while foreseeing increased demand for other forest bioproducts. Finally, it describes the need for investment in research to synthesise current knowledge and assess future environmental, economic, social and policy prospects, which will support a truly sustainable development of the circular bioeconomy.
Seeing the wood in the forests is published by the European Forest Institute in its new Knowledge to Action series, which aims to bring a wide range of research, projects and initiatives on forest-related issues closer to society. See Seeing the wood in the forests
*) Hetemäki, L., Palahí, M. and Nasi, R. 2020. Seeing the wood in the forests. Knowledge to Action 1, European Forest Institute. https://doi.org/10.36333/k2a01