A new strategy aimed at promoting, protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of Clare has identified how biodiversity can boost tourism, enhance the local environment, and assist organisations and individuals working in the area of conservation and heritage.
The ‘Draft Clare Biodiversity Action Plan 2014-17’, which is being led by Clare County Council, also outlines a series of actions aimed at addressing the dramatic decline in native Irish bird populations throughout the county as well as the growing threat posed by Invasive Alien Species to native plants and animals.
The newly drafted Action Plan, which is presently the subject of a public consultation process, seeks to raise awareness of the threats to biodiversity, and promote best practice to avoid or minimise the threats.
Among the agencies involved in the preparation and delivery of the Plan is Clare County Council, the Clare Biodiversity Group, Coillte, Burren LIFE, Burrenbeo Trust, County Clare Bat Group, Celt, the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation and Irish Seed Savers Association.
Mayor of Clare Cllr. Joe Arkins said: “County Clare has provided an example of what other counties should be doing when it comes to the promotion of Biodiversity. Clare was the first county in Ireland to produce a Local Biodiversity Action Plan in 2006 and this updated strategy seeks to build on the many lessons learned, and provide a framework for further successes in biodiversity conservation in Clare over the coming years. I would urge members of the public to review the Plan before it is finalised in the coming months.”
Speaking about the Plan and its specific focus on challenges facing the local biodiversity, Clare Biodiversity Officer Shane Casey said: “From the sandbanks of the Shannon Estuary to the karst landscape of the Burren and open waters of Lough Derg, some biodiversity in Clare is in danger of disappearing. Reclamation and changes in land-use have altered the natural processes of our wetland habitats, resulting in the loss of water-dependant plants and animals. Many of these issues are underpinned by a lack of awareness and understanding, and there is an urgent need to address these issues through education and guidance.”
“The most effective way to achieve the conservation of biodiversity at a local level, is through a Local Biodiversity Action Plan. It is a way of ensuring that existing and new initiatives, aimed at conserving and enhancing local biodiversity, are undertaken in the context of an overall framework, and that individual projects contribute towards a common set of objectives and targets.
“In raising awareness and producing best practice guidance, there is a greater focus on the ‘ecosystem approach’ which comes from Irelands National Biodiversity Plan and International guidance. This approach recognises that a species, or a habitat, does not exist independently of its surroundings, and that in order to protect an individual species or habitat, we must protect the community in which it exists, which includes all of the essential processes, functions and interactions between species, their habitats and their local, non-living environment,” added Mr. Casey.
John Murphy, Chairperson of the Clare Branch of Birdwatch Ireland welcomed the new Plan, adding “raising awareness, furthering an education programme, recording biodiversity and the production of best practice guidance are critically important for the future survival a number of native bird and other wildlife species in County Clare and Ireland.”
He added: “Birdwatch Ireland is deeply concerned about the continued decline in native bird species numbers. For example, changes in farming methods have resulted in a 70% decline in Yellowhammer numbers. There are now only 30 to 40 breeding pairs remaining in Clare where 30 years ago they numbered in their hundreds. Cuckoo host species such as Meadow Pipits are Skylarks have also experienced a significant decline while regrettably, Clare no longer has any Corncrakes.”
“Furthermore, Invasive Alien Species such as Giant Rhubarb, American Mink, Canadian Pondweed, Indian Balsam, Bloody Red Shrimp, Fallow Deer and African Curly Weed, which have been identified in the new Action Plan, are having a detrimental impact on existing native wildlife. Any long term strategy designed to redress the issues that are contributing to these declines is very much welcomed by Birdwatch Ireland,” concluded Mr. Murphy.
The Draft Clare Biodiversity Action Plan 2014-2017 will be placed on public display at Áras Contae an Chláir, at public libraries throughout Clare and on www.clarecoco.ie from Wednesday April 2nd. The closing date for public submissions is Tuesday April 22nd.