Wildlife, Aquatic Systems & Pollination

Wildlife:

Around 300 different wildlife species on the island of Ireland are at risk of permanent extinction, according to the State of Nature Report (2019).

The main drivers of these declines are intensive agriculture, heavy use of pesticides, widespread drainage of wetlands, urbanisation and climate change (resulting from carbon emissions).

Birds:

  • In less than 20 years Ireland has lost around 40% of migratory waterbirds.
  • The Mallard Duck has declined by over 40% in the last 20 years, with the Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Pochard all down between 30 and 80%.
  • Farmland birds such as the Swift, Greenfinch, Stonechat, and Kestrel are exhibiting serious declines.
  • There has been an almost complete extermination of the Corncrake.
  • Wader species such as the Curlew, Lapwing and Snipe are in serious decline.  The Curlew has declined by 96% since the 1970s.

Insects:

  • In Ireland there are 100 species of bee.  50% are in decline and a third are threatened with extinction.
  • Numbers of native butterflies have decreased by 43% since 2006.
  • Insect loss means birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish starve as they miss out on vital food sources, while soil is not fertilised and aerated naturally, a process that is critical to all plant life.

Plants:

  • Of about 1,200 plants in Ireland, 100 are threatened with extinction and 20 are critically endangered. 

Aquatic Systems:

Aquatic systems include rivers, ponds, lakes and streams. Freshwater ecosystems provide habitat for fishes, molluscs, insects, plants and mammals.  These ecosystems are also the most threatened – they are strongly affected by habitat modification, fragmentation and destruction, invasive species, overfishing, pollution, forestry practices, disease and climate change.  These combined threats have led to catastrophic declines in freshwater biodiversity.

  • In Ireland 40% of rivers, 31% of lakes, 63% of transitional waters, and 42% of coastal zones do not meet good or high status. 
  • 90% of designated Natura 2000 water dependent habitats have an unfavourable conservation status.
  • 50% of Natura 2000 water dependent species have an unfavourable status. 
  • In Ireland the European Eel is critically endangered and the Natterjack Toad is endangered. 
  • Among our freshwater fish species Pollan, Char, Twaite, Killarney Shad and Atlantic Salmon are vulnerable. 
  • 57% of designated freshwater pearl mussel populations do not meet the high water quality status needed for this indicator species.
  • Over 15% of Irish water beetle species, butterfly species and dragonflies and damselflies are threatened.

All of these species are impacted by agricultural practices as well as other pressures.  For example, Pollan and Char, that require cool deep waters unimpacted by nutrient enrichment, have gone extinct from a number of lakes over the past 40 years.

Pollination:

In the days prior to mechanisation and intensification farming was very pollinator friendly because it was rich in flowering plants, hay meadows and annual flowers in cereal crops.  There were more wildflowers along lanes and in field corners due to less spraying, more flowers in hedgerows due to less mechanisation and we grew more of our own fruits and vegetables.  In the past 50 years, increased use of pesticides, fertilisers and machinery in farming has reduced the population of flowers and the result is that we now have fewer pollinators.

Actions that can be taken to encourage pollinators include:

  • Maintaining native flowering hedgerows 
  • Allowing wildflowers to grow around the farm  
  • Providing nesting places for wild bees 
  • Minimising or eliminating artificial fertiliser use 
  • Eliminating pesticide use

For more information please visite this website: All-Ireland Pollinator Plan