Biodiversity: What is it?
Biodiversity is simply the variety of life on earth, from small micro-organisms to plants, animals and the ecosystems they depend on. It is found all around us in gardens, parks, roadside verges, fields, mountains, rivers and underground in our caves. Biodiversity is important for a wide range of reasons and we all have a role in looking after native plants and animals, protecting ecosystems, and raising awareness of the value of our natural environment. There have been many reports and studies of how biodiversity contributes to our economy, our health and well-being, and the stability of our natural systems.
Biodiversity: It’s Our Duty
There are European, National and Regional targets set to halt the loss of biodiversity. The EU vision is for better protection of biodiversity in the EU by 2050. In Northern Ireland the NI Biodiversity Strategy has set a target to significantly reduce overall biodiversity loss. The biodiversity duty is considered a key measure to contribute to these targets and at a Council level, adopting Biodiversity Implementation Plans that focus on internal Council actions and coordinating Local Biodiversity Action Plans, is agreed as an appropriate way to help meet this duty.
All public bodies, when undertaking their functions, have to take into account the following five areas:
- The protection of biodiversity
- The maintenance of biodiversity
- Enhancing biodiversity
- Restoring biodiversity
- Promoting the understanding of biodiversity both within and outside the organisation
Fermanagh and Omagh Local Biodiversity Action Plan
The Fermanagh and Omagh Local Biodiversity Action plan can be downloaded here (add link).
In brief, the Fermanagh and Omagh LBAP outlines a plan of action to:
- Help conserve and enhance local habitats and species
- Raise awareness and knowledge of local biodiversity
- Involve local people and develop partnerships in the delivery of the Fermanagh and Omagh Local Biodiversity Action Plan
This is an online campaign is encouraging families to watch and enjoy all the wonderful wildlife that makes their homes in back gardens. Click on the title above to view a list of all activities.
What is an Invasive Species?
Invasive species are species that have been introduced (deliberately or accidentally) by humans and have a negative impact on the economy, wildlife or habitats of Ireland and Northern Ireland. After habitat loss, invasive species are the second biggest threat to biodiversity worldwide, and the biggest threat on islands.
Do Your Bit for Biodiversity
Farmers and land owners
- If eligible, sign up to an agri-environmental scheme to further benefit wildlife
- Follow the codes of good agricultural practice
- Leave field margins uncut later in the season for birds, insects and mammals
- Restrict any cutting of hedgerows to every other year, allowing some stretches to flower and fruit each autumn
- Sponsor a local biodiversity project and help make it happen
- Create your own wildlife garden in your company grounds. You could build an insect hotel or even sow a small wildflower meadow.
- Volunteer your staff to lend a hand with local conservation projects which will give your team new skills and help local biodiversity.
- Create a community wildlife garden and increase your local sense of pride and stewardship for the environment
- Help plant a woodland or preserve a local bog for the future
- Help implement your LBAP by starting a community project –contact the Fermanagh and Omagh Biodiversity Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how
- Work in conjunction with a local school to develop biodiversity projects
- Help build a better picture of local biodiversity and become a wildlife recorder! Record any sightings of important wildlife and report these to the Biodiversity Officer or directly to the Ulster Museum’s recording centre, CEDaR. The Fermanagh and Omagh Biodiversity Audit revealed that there are some gaps in habitat and species records, so your help is vital.
- Have a go at wildlife gardening and enjoy the small wonders in your own patch. Or why not create a street garden and encourage your neighbours to do one thing for biodiversity in their gardens too!
- Create your own compost heap, reducing your waste and reducing the need for peat compost
- Report wildlife crime. Incidents such as dumping and water pollution should not be ignored, as these have an impact on local biodiversity. Local people are ideally placed to report such activities and this can go a long way towards preventing further decline of our habitats and species.
- Volunteer! There are always local projects that need the help of volunteers and give people a chance to learn about helping their local wildlife. These could be tree planting days, bird box making, scrub clearance or even hay making. In addition, The Conservation Volunteers, RSPB, National Trust and Ulster Wildlife have ongoing conservation projects taking place throughout the Fermanagh and Omagh area that people can get involved in.
Wildlife Law and You
Hedge cutting advice for home and landowners not under a DAERA scheme
The Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011 protects nesting birds, and it is an offence under this legislation to disturb nesting birds, their chicks, nests or eggs at any time of the year. Therefore, it is permitted to cut hedges, trees etc at any time of year, so long as you are certain there are no nesting birds. However, best practice is to carry out these works and maintenance outside of the breeding period, generally recognised as 1st March – 31st August.
When cutting hedges outside of the recognised nesting period, 1st September – 28th February, best practice is to wait until January and February where possible, to support other wildlife that utilise the hedgerow in the autumn (birds feeding on berries, pollinators using ivy nectar etc).
Hedge cutting advice for landowners and farmers under a DAERA scheme
DAERA Cross-compliance rules
Under cross-compliance rules for landowners and farmers in farming schemes, it is not permitted to cut hedges or trees between 1st March and 31st August. There are some exemptions on this, which both linked articles below explain well.
Some confusion lies around roadside hedge cutting during the nesting period as it has been mistakenly presumed in the past that all roadside hedges can be cut during the closed period – 1st March – 31st August. However this extract from a DAERA article explains further;
“In most cases roadside hedges should be cut in February. Cutting any hedge from the 1 March to the 31 August can be considered a cross compliance breach and can lead to penalties unless the operation is required for the health and safety of road users. If the hedges are not causing an obstruction to movement or view then they should not be cut in the closed period. If you need to cut during the closed period in order to comply with the legislation you should ensure you have clear evidence for doing so and that you can comply with the Code of Practice for Safety at Street Works and Road Works.” (www.daera-ni.gov.uk)
For more information on planting and managing hedgerows for wildlife please see the links and publications below;
To find out more about the Fermanagh and Omagh LBAP or how you can do your bit for local biodiversity, please contact:
Fermanagh and Omagh Biodiversity Officer
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council
Unit 22, Gortrush Industrial Estate,
Co. Tyrone, BT78 5EJ
Finding out more about Biodiversity
If you would like to find out more about biodiversity, please visit the websites listed below or contact the organisation.