Value of healthy hedgerows highlighted as National Hedgerow Week kicks off

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National Hedgerow Week 2023 launches in County Dublin

In a new partnership, the Heritage Council and Teagasc will jointly coordinate this year’s programme of events. Running from September 1st to 8th, Hedgerow Week provides an opportunity for farmers, ecologists and the public to collaborate and to celebrate the versatility of our hedges.

While providing shelter and food for a myriad of species, hedges also capture and store carbon dioxide making them invaluable allies in the fight against climate change. From a farming perspective, they act as windbreaks, protecting crops and livestock, and prevent soil erosion.

Maximising the benefits of hedgerows is challenging, and many of the events taking place throughout the week are designed to address these challenges. Specialists will be on hand to provide machinery demonstrations at different locations across the four provinces, while farm walks and presentations have been organised to raise awareness and to inform the public.

National Hedgerow Week 2023 was launched by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan T.D. and Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Senator Pippa Hackett on the farm of Doris Coyne, Westmanstown, Lucan, Co. Dublin.

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, commented on the initiative, "Healthy hedgerows are nature’s superhighways, providing a vital network along which wildlife can move through the landscape and offering food, shelter and nesting places for insects, birds and mammals. I’d like to commend the dedication and hard work of local authority heritage and biodiversity officers in organising events to celebrate the humble hedgerow and highlight the intertwined relationship between our biodiversity and cultural heritage."

Minister Pippa Hackett, Minister of State with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity, added: “Hedgerows are essential features for biodiversity on our farms. They act as homes, food and shelter for wildlife, big and small, and provide safe corridors in which to travel and seek protection.

“I urge all farmers and contractors across the country to think about the value of hedgerows on farms this season, and to remember wildlife when it comes to hedge management, particularly on internal hedges.

“My Department is currently conducting a review of the Environmental Impact Assessment thresholds for the removal of these precious features, and I look forward to its completion in the coming weeks.”

Virginia Teehan, Chief Executive of the Heritage Council, remarked: "Hedgerows are an integral part of our cultural and natural heritage. Their proper management not only preserves the beauty of our landscapes, but also ensures a thriving ecosystem for future generations. The Heritage Council is delighted to partner with Teagasc for this important and valuable celebration of our farming heritage. Our network of local authority heritage and biodiversity officers across the country will be a key component of the success of this week in raising awareness of the value of hedgerows."

Welcoming the partnership between Teagasc and the Heritage Council in the development and delivery of Hedgerow Week 2023, Dr. Stan Lalor, Teagasc Director of Knowledge Transfer, said: “Hedgerow Week 2023 serves as excellent avenue for the dissemination of knowledge in relation to the establishment, upkeep and protection of Ireland’s hedges.

“Teagasc is pleased to partner with the Heritage Council to deliver this coordinated series of events, which will aid in the protection of our hedges and the numerous benefits they bring in terms of biodiversity.”

Teagasc will host a number of these events at its research centres throughout the country, where the best practice in the establishment and management of hedgerows will be discussed. The theme of Hedgerow Week 2023 is ‘How to plant and manage hedges’.

Over the past few months, Dr. Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist, has led the engagement with a diverse range of hedgerow stakeholders. This has generated much debate and raised many issues. Most notably, however, it has highlighted the increasing interest in hedges; the common thread being the importance of our network of native hedges throughout the countryside and indeed in urban areas.

Dr. Catherine Keena said: “We have a network of native hedges in the Irish countryside, estimated at 689,000km when using a very broad definition of hedgerow - ranging from woody vegetation on earth banks to stockproof hedges.

“All native hedges are incredibly important for biodiversity, as they are generally 200 years old and, in addition to the hedge plants, the ground vegetation and soil may contain a diverse range of flowering plants, grasses and invertebrates at the hedge base in gaps and in earth banks.,

“A diversity of hedges including treeline hedges and topped hedges is desirable. The biodiversity of treeline hedges is primarily in the canopy - full of flowers and fruit. Topped hedges with a dense base or laid hedges provide nest sites for birds, with flowers and fruit on individual trees retained,” she said.

Find out more information on the events planned as part of Hedgerow Week 2023