Coastal habitats

Dune Monitoring Survey of Habitats Directive Sand Dunes (Client: BEC Consultants / NPWS)

In 2011-2012, Blackthorn Ecology is assisting BEC Consultants with a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) monitoring survey of Irish sand dunes. Ireland’s statutory obligations under Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive include regular monitoring of the conservation status of habitats of European importance. This monitoring survey covers 10 sand dune, dune heath and machair communities listed on Annex I of the Habitats Directive. Coastal sites across Ireland have been chosen by NPWS for long-term monitoring. The project is collecting data on the species composition, structure, management and threats and carrying out habitat mapping of dune systems. These data will be used to assess the conservation status of Ireland’s dune systems of European importance and will inform requirements for management and ecosystem restoration.

Portrane Residential Development (Client: Private Developer)

Dr Smith provided ecological support for a planning application for a housing development in Portrane, Co. Dublin. The key ecological issues were coastal erosion and location near Rogerstown Estuary Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area for birds (SPA). Dr Smith carried out field and desk studies to assess the risks of coastal erosion to the proposed development and determine if the proposed development would increase the already significant levels of disturbance to the adjacent marram dune habitat. An optimal setback of the development from the foredune was recommended based on best practice in Ireland and Scotland, and a programme of dune restoration was designed, including conversion of improved amenity grassland to natural dune grassland and repair of gaps in the dune crest using sand-accumulation fencing.

Mayo Habitats Survey (Client: Mayo County Council)

In 2008, Dr Smith was project manager and lead ecologist for the habitat survey and mapping of nine (9) towns and their environs in Mayo: Westport, Castlebar, Belmullet, Ballina, Charlestown, Swinford, Kiltimagh, Ballinrobe and Ballyhaunis. The total study area was 114 km2. The results of the survey were used to support strategic planning for local heritage in the preparation of Local Area Plans. Preliminary GIS mapping of habitats was completed using aerial photography interpretation and review of existing GIS databases, including designated areas, soils, forestry (FIPS) and CORINE. Additional information on habitats and notable species was collated from extensive consultation with government bodies, NGOs, academics, consultants and other persons with local knowledge. Due to the size of the study area, it was not possible to survey all habitats in the field, and so preliminary mapping was used to target potentially important habitats for field survey. Current and potential conservation value and threats to biodiversity were assessed in the field. The final report, maps and GIS dataset included identification of Local Biodiversity Areas (LBAs) and ecological corridors; the continuity and permeability of corridors were also evaluated. A set of prioritised conservation management recommendations were made.