Urban and agricultural habitats

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.

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.

St. Louis School Sustainable Buildings (BREEAM) Assessment (Client: EC Harris)

Dr Smith was project manager and lead ecologist for the ecological component of a sustainable building assessment (using the BREEAM system) for a redevelopment of St. Louis Grammar School, Kilkeel, Co. Down in 2009. Dr Smith’s team carried out a habitat survey using the JNCC Phase 1 methodology and assessed the value of the site for mammals, bats and birds based on field and desk study and consultations with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. He liaised with the building and landscape design teams to develop measures to protect and enhance the biodiversity of mature woodland on a motte. Creation of new Local Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats – oak woodland, lowland meadow and species-rich hedgerow – was incorporated into the landscape plan, and additional measures included erection of bird and bat boxes. The BREEAM assessment concluded that the proposed redevelopment would have a positive effect on the ecology of the site over the long term.

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.