Call of the wild: Boosting coastal habitats and halting biodiversity loss

Call of the wild: Boosting coastal habitats and halting biodiversity loss

Peter Dowdall reports on efforts to halt biodiversity loss to boost coastal habitats in the Cork area

[timgcap=Paul Wickham; General Manager Midleton Distilleries IDL, Brenda O'Riordan; Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Proinsias î Tuama; Founder of the East Cork Biodiversity Networking Programme, Rebecca Byrne; Strategic Sourcing Consultant at iDDea, and Joe McCarthy; East Cork Municipal District Officer Cork County Council at the launch of the Coastal Habitats and Walkways project at the East Cork Municipal District Offices in Midleton, Co. Cork.]CoastalHabitatsAndWalkwaysProject030919_large.jpg[/timcap]

I DON’T know if it is just because I have been keeping an eye out for it or have the roadsides of Ireland become more colourful over the last couple of years?

While there is still far too much weedkiller being applied unnecessarily and areas been strimmed and mowed pointlessly, there is also burgeoning light as the message is getting out that beauty in the wild is not manicured roadsides with chemically burned edges.

Rather, the beauty is in the wildflowers and grasses buzzing with bees, other insects, birds, hedgehogs and myriad other wildlife that are beginning to call these areas home once more. It is truly beautiful to see public areas sustaining life and wildlife feeling safe in their environment without the threat of humans vandalising their homes and cutting down or poisoning their food supply.

The East Cork Biodiversity Networking Programme (ECBNP) launched its “Coastal Habitats and Walkways” project at Cork County Council’s East Cork Municipal Offices in Midleton, Co Cork, recently.

The group is aiming to halt biodiversity loss and help coastal habitats in the Cork area to thrive, as well as provide education about biodiversity and climate change. The group marked the launch of this project with the unveiling of a new mini-tractor mower and trailer, which will be used for the creation and management of wild-meadows. Specially designated areas of public land, historically kept as tightly mown lawns, will be managed as wildflower meadows. These meadows are perfect for pollinators to thrive.

Letting the garden “go wild” may not be to everyone’s taste for their own private outdoor room and of course in public areas, health and safety must come first but so much of our green space could be left to, at least flower and set seed, before being mowed and cleaned up.

This East Cork project is funded by the Fisheries Local Action Group, Cork County Council, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard and Carey Tools. Bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects are experiencing severe declines, with one-third of Irish bee species presently facing immediate extinction.

The group will engage and work closely with local Tidy Town groups in Cork, providing training and equipment support to assist in making sure that landscaping not only brightens up towns and villages, but also increases biodiversity.

“We are excited at reaching this important milestone in the project,” said Proinsias Ó Tuama, founder of the East Cork Biodiversity Networking Programme.

“The message that ‘wild is beautiful’ is a key part of the work that we are doing. Properly managing wildflower areas is just as big a challenge as a well-manicured formal garden but adds so much more to local biodiversity and the wildlife that local communities can enjoy.”

Approximately 27 acres of coastal habitats and pathways in the Cork area have been identified as part of the project, with work already ongoing on a number of sites including the seafront at Garryvoe beach. In August, the group will hold a workshop with Tidy Towns and other community groups to identify further areas for conservation and collaboration.

Dr Liam Lysaght of the National Biodiversity Data Centre said: “We are very pleased to support the work of the East Cork Biodiversity Network Programme as it is through local action at the grassroots level that real biodiversity actions can be delivered. The East Cork Biodiversity Networking Program is leading the way in this regard.”

The project “promises to deliver and improve on our biodiverse rich habitats for our pollinators who desperately need our support”, according to Joe McCarthy, East Cork Municipal District Officer with Cork County Council.

In larger private gardens it can often be feasible to let an area to go wild or if that’s a bridge too far, you can plant an area with pollinator-friendly perennials and just cut the entire area planting once a year in early spring. Using plants such as Verbena, Lythrum, Rudbeckia, Heleniums, to name but a few will ensure that you not only have a wildlife-friendly area but also a herbaceous border or even meadow, to provide masses of colour and scent.

Mr O Tuama added: “We are in a race against time to save our bees and other pollinators that keep our countryside thriving. This is a battle we can fight one patch of ground at a time while also gaining huge community spirit and mental health benefit by simply being outdoors as part of team with a common aim.”

The group’s website www.ourbiodiversity.org will publicise talks and training events, give helpful tips to gardeners seeing to be more eco-friendly or anyone seeking to make a little room for nature.

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