Partners: University College Cork & BirdWatch Ireland
Funding Body: Department of Agricutlure, Food & the Marine
Duration: December 2013 - December 2015

 

Background
Conservation of threatened habitats and species is required by European and Irish laws. Sustainable forest expansion that is compatible with conservation requires support from scientific studies of the ecological response to afforestation. While recent studies have investigated the bird communities of many types of forest and woodlands in Ireland little comparable work has been undertaken to date on the impacts of afforestation on bird communities of rare and vulnerable habitats. This study set out to inform forest policy formulation and management practices that achieve a balance between the competing demands of timber production and environmental sustainability in our forests.

 

Aims
This project aims to identify the risks posed by forest planting to vulnerable habitats and bird species in Ireland, and to ensure that forest expansion targets are met without compromising vulnerable habitats or bird species. The objectives will be achieved using a combination of archived and newly collected data and will identify forest establishment and management measures to protect habitats and species and mitigate negative effects. Recent planting trends will be reviewed to identify vulnerable habitats and species and we will generate new data on the likely impact of forest expansion on conservation in these habitats. A case study of Merlin will be conducted to assess habitat selection in relation to forest habitats and the potential impacts of afforestation and forest management on Merlin conservation.

 

Research Methods
A survey of public perception of bird conservation in relation to forest expansion in Ireland was undertaken in 2014. Archived data was used to investigate the impact of forest expansion on protected birds and habitats in Ireland in relation to the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. During the 2014 bird breeding season fieldwork was conducted on bird communities in open habitats (wet grassland, improved grassland, raised bog and blanket bog) across the island of Ireland in order to investigate the effect of forest proximity on bird communities in these habitats. A case study of the use of forests by Merlin is ongoing using archived data collected over the past 40 years. 

The findings of this study will be used to derive recommendations for the management of forest expansion in Ireland in relation to future afforestation targets which will deliver this expansion in a manner that is compatible with conservation of birds and habitats.

 

Workshop and consultation
The findings of this research were presented at a workshop on June 26th 2015. Discussion groups wre held as part of this workshop where attendees were given the opportunity to develop project recommendations in collaboration with the project team.

 

Researchers

University College Cork:

BirdWatch Ireland:

  • Researcher: John Lusby

 

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