Glenties Windfarms (Client: Private Developers)

Dr. Smith was project manager and lead ecologist for a series of Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIAs) and Appropriate Assessments (AAs) in support of planning applications for three wind farm developments totalling 38 turbines near Glenties, Co. Donegal currently at different stages in the planning process. Dr Smith carried out field surveys of the sites, which were characterised by upland blanket bog of varying condition, most of which occurred as intimate mosaics with wet heath, severely eroding blanket bog, exposed siliceous rock and poor flush. Potential impacts on terrestrial ecology and aquatic ecology were assessed and detailed mitigation measures were outlined. Mitigation measures included development of an ecological management plan and a peat and surface water management plan for the construction and operation of the windfarms. These included plans for experimental restoration of eroding blanket bog using a mixture of heather brash strewing and hydroseeding techniques. The most sensitive feature of the sites was their location within catchments upstream of the West of Ardara / Maas Road SAC, which supports several populations of freshwater pearl mussel. Detailed mitigation was designed to safeguard water quality during excavation and storage of peat for the windfarms.

High Nature Value Farming Case Studies (Client: Heritage Council)

Dr Smith was project manager and lead ecologist for case studies of High Nature Value (HNV) farming in north Connemara and the Aran Islands in 2008-2009. HNV farming is characterised by low-intensity land use that supports high biodiversity of habitats and/or species. HNV farmland is economically marginal, and additional support is required to ensure that farms are not intensified, converted to another land-use, or abandoned. Dr Smith led these case studies to better understand the ecological value of HNV farming practices, to understand how these support farmland biodiversity, and to develop recommendations on measures to support HNV farming. GIS-based mapping of potential HNV farmland was carried out based on existing data from NPWS (including Commonage Framework Plan data from the Twelve Bens and the Maamturks), EPA and DAFF. Dr Smith led field surveys of individual farms within the case study areas, which included biodiversity inventories and assessments of threats, including grazing intensity. Detailed interviews were carried out with the farmers on their farming enterprise, current and past farming practices, challenges facing farming, opinions on their landscape and nature conservation, and their suggestions for maintaining HNV farming. A summary of the project has recently been published in the Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management bulletin and the final project report is due to be published in 2012 by the Heritage Council.

Landscape Assessment of the Great and Little Sugar Loaf Mountains (Client: Wicklow County Council)

Dr Smith was project manager and lead ecologist for an assessment of the Great and Little Sugar Loaf Mountains in northeast Co. Wicklow to support a proposed Special Amenity Area Order by Wicklow County Council. The assessment included desktop and field-based surveys of the geology, landscape character, ecology and cultural heritage of the site. In addition, recreational use of the Sugar Loafs was evaluated, constraints and threats arising from recreational use were identified, and the potential for enhancing recreation amenity was evaluated. This aspect of the study involved detailed consultations with land owners, including the Kilruddery Estate, and recreational users, such as hill walkers, horse riders and paragliders. Core Area and Buffer Area boundaries were proposed for the Special Amenity Area based on the landscape and heritage value of the site. A final report and maps of proposed boundaries, geology, landscape character, habitats, and cultural heritage were produced. Habitats were mapped using GIS, first on a preliminary basis using aerial photography and subsequently in the field, and classified according to level III of Fossitt (2000).