TCD: 'Wealth of hidden wildlife' shows importance of biodiversity strategy

TCD: 'Wealth of hidden wildlife' shows importance of biodiversity strategy

Trinity staff and students in the School of Natural Sciences found that "there is a wealth of hidden biodiversity of plants, insects, fungi and other creatures, which mostly goes unnoticed". File photo

An audit of flora and fauna within Trinity College Dublin has unearthed a whole range of wildlife that has gone unnoticed previously.

The undertaking, which included a single night of moth-trapping on the campus during summer 2021 revealing 32 different species, emphasises just how vital a biodiversity strategy is not just to the university, but society as a whole, its organisers said.

The audit was initiated by Professor Jane Stout, from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, and led by Dr Ursula King, funded by the Provost’s Sustainability Fund, the Botany discipline, UNI-ECO Green Challenges and a philanthropic donation. 

Prof. Stout was recently the head of the expert review into the future of Ireland's National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), which received a €47m boost from Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan in this week's Budget. 

Trinity staff and students in the School of Natural Sciences, with members of the Estates and Facilities team, and the Trinity Sustainability Intern, found that "there is a wealth of hidden biodiversity of plants, insects, fungi and other creatures, which mostly goes unnoticed".

The executive summary of the audit said: "Trinity is home to more than just the iconic wildlife species that grab the headlines – the foxes, trees and swifts – and the familiar green sports pitches and manicured squares. There is a wealth of hidden biodiversity of plants, insects, fungi and other creatures, which mostly goes unnoticed. 

"Discovering and documenting our biodiversity takes time, resources and expertise. 

A single night of moth-trapping on Trinity Campus during summer 2021 revealed 32 moth species, but this is only a fraction of the insect biodiversity likely to be living in the city, and there is great potential to discover new elements of biodiversity on Trinity’s estate. 

"Beyond this, there is so much to learn about what these species do, how they contribute to the complex urban ecosystem, and ultimately, to our own health and wellbeing."

The audit made 10 recommendations in its conclusion, such as developing a biodiversity strategy for Trinity's buildings, grounds, research, education, and public and policy engage; employing a full-time biodiversity officer to oversee data collection; and a biodiversity outreach programme to share expertise with the wider community.

"We need to integrate biodiversity actions with other environmental sustainability goals (including climate, energy, water, resource consumption, waste), and acknowledge and eliminate practices that deplete biodiversity, both on Trinity’s estate, and beyond. 

"We are deeply aware that whilst engineering solutions may be appropriate to mitigating some of the effects of climate change, it will not be possible to engineer our way out of biodiversity loss, and that nature itself can provide many solutions to the impacts of the climate crisis," the summary said.

Taking action for biodiversity is not just the responsibility of gardening or horticulture staff, it said. Such action could inspire others outside the university, it added.

"Whilst the practical actions we take on our small city centre campus may be of limited direct benefit in the face of national biodiversity loss, our visible engagement in biodiversity issues on campus could inspire and catalyse meaningful change for staff, generations of students and the more than two million visitors Trinity receives each year."

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