Conservation and Management
CoillteNATURE Project (Client: Coillte)
Blackthorn Ecology provided ecological expertise to Coillte on management of biodiversity throughout their forest estate. This work will help Coillte meet their sustainable forest management obligations under Forest Stewardship Council certification and under the Irish national Code of Best Forest Practice. Blackthorn Ecology developed criteria and indicators for identifying High Conservation Value Forests and woodland Biodiversity Areas. Field and desk-based biodiversity indicators were defined by conducting detailed reviews of the literature followed by rigorous field testing. The final sets of criteria and indicators were piloted using GIS analysis of the Midlands District. Potential High Conservation Value Forests and woodland Biodiversity Areas were mapped. Blackthorn Ecology recommended several measures for implementing biodiversity criteria and indicators throughout Coillte’s forest management and operations.
Offaly Community Biodiversity Project (Client: Offaly Community Forum)
In 2013, Blackthorn Ecology completed a project to record, communicate and enhance the wildlife of seven towns and villages in Offaly. We carried out detailed winter, spring and summer surveys of bryophytes, lichens, higher plants, terrestrial and freshwater invertebrates, fish, birds and bats. Habitat maps of local communities were prepared using GIS. In combination with existing records and habitat mapping, this information was used to inform local Tidy Towns groups on the biodiversity within their local areas. Community engagement and involvement was a central part of the project. A series of nature walks was held in each town during Heritage Week in August 2013. In cooperation with the local communities, draft five-year biodiversity management plans were developed to conserve and enhance biodiversity in local hotspots. The plans include ways in which to develop the natural amenity and educational potential for each town’s wildlife.
Toon Valley NHA Survey (Client: NPWS)
In 2013, Blackthorn Ecology carried out a specialist survey of woodlands and surrounding scrub, heath and blanket bog habitats in the valley of the Toon River in west Cork. The National Parks and Wildlife Service commissioned the survey to gather detailed data about the site and to establish appropriate boundaries for a proposed Natural Heritage Area. A total of 113 ha of woodlands and scrub were mapped in the field. As the site was quite heterogeneous in terms of topography, soils and hydrology, eight different native woodland types were mapped according to the National Survey of Native Woodlands classification. Young woodland, conifer plantation and gorse scrub were mapped as well as blanket bog, flush, heath and grassland. The conservation value of the different woodland types and blocks and unwooded habitats was assessed. Proposed NHA boundaries were presented as a minimal “core” boundary, focused on the most valuable native woodland types and natural transitions to open upland habitats, and several “extended” boundary options to take in other habitats of secondary value. A concise report was prepared detailing the survey and results, accompanied by maps and a GIS database.
River Nore Heritage Audit (Client: Kilkenny County Council)
In 2011-2012, Blackthorn Ecology carried out the natural heritage component of a multidisciplinary heritage audit of the lower River Nore in collaboration with Kilkenny Archaeology. We surveyed the river corridor and adjacent habitats along the 44 km stretch of the river from Kilkenny City to its confluence with the River Barrow. Surveys were informed by initial desk studies and consultations so that the most ecologically important habitats and species could be targeted in the field. Field surveys were carried out on foot and also by boat. Habitats were mapped according to the Heritage Council and EU Habitats Directive classification schemes, in addition to more detailed and specialist classification schemes. Flora and fauna were recorded and significant populations were recorded using GPS and GPS-enabled digital photography. Blackthorn Ecology paid particular attention to recording populations of endangered species, such as autumn crocus, and invasive non-natives, such as Himalayan balsam. Desk and field survey results were used to compile a GIS database and maps of habitats, significant natural heritage areas, and Green Infrastructure. Green Infrastructure mapping included important habitats for floodwater retention, carbon sequestration and recreation. The maps and GIS database will be used for strategic planning, and the TrailKilkenny Project has already made use of this information for heritage tourism interpretation.
Cavan Three Roads Project (Client: Cavan County Council)
Dr Smith was project manager and lead ecologist for environmental assessments, including ecological, landscape and noise impact assessments, for three local relief or access roads in Co. Cavan: Ballyconnell, Bailieborough and Cavan town. The proposed routes each presented their own unique ecological features and challenges. For example, the Ballyconnell relief road crossed a major river and had the potential to fragment populations of otter, waterfowl and bats along the river corridor. The Cavan East Access Route crossed through an interdrumlin wetland complex, including a series of breeding ponds used by the protected smooth newt. Dr Smith advised on changes to design and mitigation measures in close consultation with design engineers to avoid, minimise or compensate for significant impacts. Measures included mammal fencing and underpasses, creation of a compensatory pond and wetland complex, and translocation of smooth newt and common frog under NPWS license. Monitoring is ongoing, and surveys have confirmed the presence of breeding newts in their new home.
Biodiversity Management Plan for Irishtown Nature Park (Client: Dublin City Council)
Dr Smith was project manager and lead ecologist for a biodiversity inventory and management plan for Irishtown Nature Park in Dublin City. The park was established in the late 1980s with the twin aims of public amenity and nature conservation on the former Ringsend landfill. The park now supports a diversity of grassland, scrub and coastal habitats. Field surveys were carried out to produce a habitat map, to compile a thorough botanical inventory, and to survey birds, bats and invertebrates that use the park. The Dublin Naturalists’ Field Club and the Botanical Society of the British Isles also provided valuable information on the past and present biodiversity of the park. Local residents’ groups were consulted with for their observations on the flora and fauna of the park and their views on management priorities. The final report included maps, data and recommendations on the management of the park to conserve and enhance its biodiversity and to maintain its connectivity with other semi-natural habitats and urban green spaces in the area.