The Irish government has announced a new biodiversity restoration project in Wicklow, which will reportedly benefit farmers and nature. The project, which is the first of its kind in Wicklow Mountains National Park, will take a river catchment-scale approach and focus on a 2,000ha site at Glenasmole, 6km from Tallaght, which is also the source of the River Dodder. The project will be led by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and will use various land management techniques, including native woodland planting in gullies, bog restoration, and vegetation management to increase biodiversity on site.
In addition to increasing biodiversity, the project is also expected to provide measurable benefits such as increased carbon storage, reduction in soil erosion, and improved water quality. The works will result in important ecosystem services to the wider catchment, specifically in terms of flood risk alleviation and improvements in water quality in relation to the River Dodder and the Dublin water supply at Bohernabreena.
The site has been actively farmed for generations and these practices continue today in the national park. The ministers said that local farmers will have an important role to play in the proposed works, and already have experience in active conservation through a recent SUAS (Sustainable Uplands Agri-environment Scheme). Improvements in habitat, while increasing biodiversity, will also offer improved grazing and shade for grazing animals on site, thereby delivering benefits for both wildlife and livestock, long into the future, according to the two ministers.
The project is expected to benefit rural communities at the top of the catchment, as well as those living downstream in the city. It is hoped that this broad catchment-based approach to habitat management can act as an exemplar to the wide-ranging benefits of habitat restoration and ecological engineering.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, said: “As a Dublin TD, this is a particularly special project for me as it combines the restoration of nature with climate action and means real, tangible benefits for people – so nature and people both win here. Bog restoration and native tree planting will not only help wildlife and reduce emissions, it will ensure better water quality for the people of Dublin and help to mitigate flooding, which is a significant issue for people living along the River Dodder – which flows all the way from this valley to the city centre. I’m delighted that my colleague Minister Malcolm Noonan and the team at the National Parks and Wildlife Service are showing such positive leadership – working with local farmers, many of whom have been looking after valley for generations.”
Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, added: “It’s fantastic to see the National Parks and Wildlife Service leading on this ambitious and innovative catchment-based biodiversity restoration project, and working closely with local farmers to deliver results – collaboration is key in ensuring meaningful biodiversity action. The project will have benefits for rural communities at the top of the catchment and as well as those living downstream in the city. I’m very pleased to be out on the bog today to mark International Day for Biodiversity with my colleague Minister Eamon Ryan and jointly announce this important initiative.”
The project is a welcome addition to the Irish government’s ongoing efforts to protect and restore biodiversity in the country.