As the most fundamental part of our national infrastructure, Ireland’s natural heritage could even be seen as a ‘service industry’ because it provides so much that is vital to our lives.
- The air we breathe and the quality of that air;
- Water for drinking and bathing, and the quality of that water;
- Fertile soil and pollinated crops;
- Medicines, food and building materials;
- Flood control;
- Raw materials for several economic sectors such as farming, forestry and fisheries (total value estimated to be worth at least €2.6 billion per annum to the Irish economy);
- The landscape that makes us feel like we’re home.
The vast variety of life on Earth - all its species and their habitats - is called 'biodiversity'. With the rapid loss of our biodiversity receiving increasing attention, the EU has set new biodiversity targets for 2020 (after we failed our 2010 target for halting biodiversity loss). Recent studies illustrate that awareness of biodiversity and biodiversity loss are at very low levels in Ireland, despite the essential services it provides and its contribution to our quality of life.
However, the EU and Ireland’s new visions and targets for biodiversity finally reflect the importance of biodiversity, not just for its own sake, but for the role it and the broader context of ecosystems play in supporting human society. For instance, Ireland’s vision is that biodiversity and ecosystems in Ireland are conserved and restored, delivering benefits essential for all sectors of society.
Because of the importance of our wildlife heritage, there is clearly a need in Ireland for:
- Effective policies concerning the protection of our natural heritage, and the enforcement of these policies
- A sound and extensive knowledge base to inform our policies and legislation
- Improved communications and public outreach to increase awareness of the impacts of biodiversity loss, and to reduce each individual’s contribution to that loss
- Greater consideration of our natural infrastructure in planning and development and across a range of sectors
- Increased allocation of resources to the protection of our natural heritage.
In this context, and in order to fulfil its role in conserving our natural heritage as defined by the Heritage Act, 1995 [pdf 93kb], the Heritage Council has focused its wildlife work on three areas:
- Providing heritage policy advice to a range of government agencies and departments, including on the development of the second National Biodiversity Plan and on agricultural policies, particularly with regard to the maintenance of high nature value farming and the development of effective and robust agri-environment programmes
- Working with government departments, State agencies, non-governmental organisations and heritage professionals on strategically important heritage initiatives, such as the development of best practice methodologies (e.g. habitat mapping) and the implementation of national policies and plans (such as the National Biodiversity Plan and Local Biodiversity Action Plans);
- Promote the collection, management and dissemination of information on Ireland’s natural heritage, most specifically through the National Biodiversity Data Centre, but also by supporting a range of research and survey initiatives, including through our grants programmes.
The Heritage Council has published a wide range of Policy Papers and Studies which can be found on the Wildlife Publications > page.
Priorities for action:
- The continuing development of our high nature value farming work, in collaboration with the European Forum for Nature Conservation and Pastoralism and a range of other critical stakeholders, in order to influence the development of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2013 for the benefit of high nature value farmland and the farming communities who maintain it;
- The development of work on the economic importance of biodiversity and the role it plays in maintaining ecosystem services and critical sectors;
- Supporting the National Biodiversity Data Centre in the implementation and application of its information management system across a range of sectors so that greater consideration is given to biodiversity in decision-making processes.