An Irish-led international consortium led by University College Cork (UCC) will begin extensive aerial surveys of almost 500,000km2 of Ireland’s maritime area later this month.
The ObSERVE 2 Aerial survey will help build a greater understanding of Ireland’s marine species and the habitats they need to survive and thrive.
The programme helps to plan marine activities and development, without threatening sensitive marine ecosystems and is jointly funded by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications; the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage; and Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI).
Meanwhile, data collected as part of the first phase of the programme has already filled major data gaps and has assisted in more informed and sustainable management of offshore activities, and in the development of suitable conservation strategies that will sustain our marine environment into the future.
This second phase will build on the knowledge and data gathered in the successful first phase.
The UCC team is led by Dr Mark Jessopp and Professor Emer Rogan from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences with partners from Action Air, France, Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands and Duke University in the US.
"UCC is delighted to be delivering the ObSERVE 2 Programme,” added Dr Jessopp.
“The survey programme includes summer and winter flights over the next two years, but we are looking forward to the challenge.
“The results from the ObSERVE 2 programme will provide us with a unique time series to look at trends in seabird and cetacean abundance and distribution, informing management and conservation".
Speaking during the project’s launch recently, Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan highlighted how developing off-shore wind resources would give Ireland the opportunity it needed to break away from fossil fuels and meet ambitious climate targets.
“In doing so we are determined to protect our marine environment and the wonderful biodiversity it contains,” he continued.
“The scientific knowledge from the ObSERVE project will play a critical role in developing our resources in a sustainable way.
“The collaboration of my department, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland in supporting the project emphasises the importance the State places on protecting our marine environment and our shared ambitions in combating climate change and biodiversity loss.”
Since its inception in 2014, the ObSERVE Programme has demonstrated the rich biodiversity and natural productivity of Ireland’s marine environment.
The second phase involves active partnership and coordination between the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, who together have provided funding of €1.6m for the Aerial survey project.
This brings the total investment of the ObSERVE Programme so far to €4.5m.