Farmers urged to join Biodiversity Blitz

Farmers urged to join Biodiversity Blitz

President Michael D.Higgins with Jerry Dennehy, Farmers Bridge Tralee. The President said nobody knows more than farmers about the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. Picture: Dan Linehan

Farmers and others have been invited to engage with a Biodiversity Blitz that aims to set out a vision for nature in the years ahead.

The fourth National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP is being run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), a division of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

It follows a period of engagement with stakeholder groups and feedback from a national conference, held in June this year.

The consultation on the action plan was launched by Minister of State Malcolm Noonan earlier this month and will close on November 9 It aims to set out a vision for an Ireland in 2050 in which biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored, and sustainably used.

It will be informed by an extensive review of national, European, and international policies, strategies, legislation, and science.

The plan will be Ireland’s main mechanism for engagement with ongoing policy developments at regional and global levels.

A final version will be published in early 2023, to allow the recommendations of the ongoing Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss to be considered.

Unprecedented challenges

Minister Noonan said the public consultation is taking place against a backdrop of unprecedented challenges for nature in Ireland and globally.

“How we collectively and collaboratively address these challenges will define not just our ability to halt biodiversity loss, but how we as a species will survive and thrive into the future,” he said.

Minister Noonan previously described biodiversity loss as a critical issue that impacts the natural world, societies, and economies.

Humans depend on nature for our survival — it is that simple. We cannot stand idly by while the web of life falls apart.

“Ecosystems regulate the climate, fertilise soils, purify water, produce oxygen, and pollinate our crops.

“Many have already seen irreversible changes, including in Ireland. What’s more, nature is our first and best line of defence against climate change,” he said.

President Michael D Higgins often highlights the rapid decline of biodiversity globally and how it is contributing to ecosystem collapse.

“What an extraordinary statistic it is that wild animals have declined by 85% since the rise of humans,” he said in an address at Bord Bia Bloom earlier this year.

Million species on verge of extinction

He pointed out that more than a million species (a quarter of all living things) are believed to be on the verge of extinction, with an average 60% decline in animal populations since 1970.

President Higgins again referred to the crisis as it relates to Ireland when he officially opened the recent national and world ploughing championships in Ratheniska, Co Laois.

It is so important that we all come together to work together to tackle climate change, our greatest existential crisis, and share our efforts in a respectful way rather than in an adversarial manner.

“Achieving our sustainable development goals is an all-of-society, inter-generational project of urgency,” he said.

The President said nobody knows more than farmers about the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Nobody knows better than those working on the land alongside the hedgerows, placing their hands in the earth, that we are losing species — flora and fauna — at an alarming rate.” 

The President said the enormous task of tackling the climate and biodiversity emergency, and of making our nation more environmentally sustainable, “belongs to us all and must be undertaken by us all working together.” 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin also told the National Biodiversity conference in June that the time has come for a new era of stewardship of our natural world.

“We must follow the science and urgently turn things around for the good of all people and our planet,” he said.

Mr Martin said biodiversity loss will only be successfully tackled as an all-of-government and all-of-society project.

“The rich tapestry of the natural world has been our inheritance. In many ways, we have fallen short in protecting it.

But knowing what we know, we can resolve to change our approach and put the protection of nature and climate at the heart of our decision-making.

Ploughing championships

Many exhibits at the ploughing championships focused on adapting to climate change, enhancing biodiversity, and embracing new business opportunities for rural Ireland in a low-carbon economy.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre also focused on challenges to addressing the biodiversity crisis across much of the farmed landscape in Ireland during a festival in May.

It called for a more positive engagement around the topic and highlighted some of the ways that farmers are working to support biodiversity on their farms.

The NBDC suggested that if all farmers took some evidence-based actions, no matter how small, the cumulative impact could address biodiversity loss in the landscape.

It pointed out that in recent years there has been a reduction in the biodiversity value of farmland. Much of the variety and diversity, once such a characteristic feature of the countryside, has been lost.

The farming community presents an opportunity for arresting this decline. It can be a positive driver of change, it stated.

Farmers, the traditional custodians of the countryside, continue to play an important role in protecting and enhancing biodiversity.

But they say they do not get enough recognition for protecting the quality of nature found in the countryside.

Irish Farmers Association Environment and Rural Affairs chairman Paul O’Brien previously pointed out that farmland is filled with a broad range of habitats.

These include hedgerows, field margins, ponds, streams, native woodland, bogs and species-rich meadows and pastures.

“There are habitats in every farm corner that contribute to biodiversity,” he said, noting Ireland has the European Union’s third-largest total hedgerow area, and that its grass-based farming system is well positioned in terms of wildlife.

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