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Threats to biodiversity

In County Clare, there are several threats to biodiversity, but perhaps the biggest and most important threat is a lack of recognition, and more fundamentally, a lack of appreciation for biodiversity. It is regularly viewed as a luxury, and the critical role it plays in the health and wellbeing of our society is overlooked.

In many cases, there are efforts made to protect our more rare and sensitive habitats and wildlife, such as those within designated sites, however, there is a failure to recognise that these rely on connections to other sites and the wider countryside to ensure the migration and genetic exchange of wild species. In these situations, the more common habitats such as hedgerows, small groups of trees, streams, small lakes, river edges, wet grassland and marshy areas are just as important to the survival of these rare and sensitive habitats and wildlife. This is particularly relevant to the protection of bats, which rely on hedgerows and other corridors for protection when commuting.

Invasive alien species

The spread of invasive alien species is a particularly important threat to local biodiversity as they compete for space and food. Aquatic invasive species are spread when recreational and pleasure crafts are moved around inland waterways without proper washing and care that they are not transporting invasive species. Dumping of garden cuttings in wild areas can introduce non native species, while ornamental garden species such as certain pondweeds have escaped into wild aquatic ecosystems. Inappropriate management on invasive species can also exacerbate their expansion, such as in the case of Japanese Knotweed.

Inland Fisheries Ireland provide best practice guidance for the control and management of invasive species.

Development

There are many examples in County Clare where development (from housing and wind farms, to industry and roads) , land reclamation and forestry plantations, particularly over the last two decades, have effectively obliterated habitats and their species. In a landscape like ours, where there is a high proportion of sensitive ecosystems, and habitats around every corner, these will continue to be threats. Therefore it is vital that development is appropriately sited, the need for, or extent of, land reclamation is reconsidered, and forestry plantations are more species diverse, and not planted on sensitive habitats.

Wetlands and floodplains

There is a worrying overreliance on using engineering solutions to environmental problems rather than identifying and assessing alternatives. This is particularly relevant in relation to wetlands and floodplains. With regard to flooding, very often the solution simply results in somewhere else being flooded. To exacerbate the situation, existing or proposed engineering works carried out on other developments are not taken into account. In site preparation works, there is often little regard given to the effects on the hydrology of adjacent wetlands.

Water quality

Deterioration of water quality, as a result of both point source pollution and diffuse pollution, is a significant threat to aquatic ecosystems. Phytoplankton and macro-invertebrates (such as mayflies, stone-flies and caddis-flies) are extremely sensitive to water pollution, and the loss of these species will resonate impacts further up the food chain, from fish and amphibians, to otters and birds.

Wildlife disturbance

Disturbance to wildlife, and particularly birds, occurs as a result of inappropriately sited development and increased recreational pressure. The use of jet-ski's and power boats in areas where birds feed can result in significant disturbance, while dogs which are not kept on leads also disturb wildlife.

Page last reviewed: 22/05/18

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