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.
The Importance of Biodiversity
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.
“Ecosystem services are the benefits provided by ecosystems that contribute to making human life both possible and worth living”
UK National Ecosystem Assessment
Save our Magnificent Meadows
There were once natural wildflower meadows in every parish. Today only 2% of the meadows that existed in the 1930’s remain. Nearly 7.5 million acres of wildflower meadow have been lost so far and they are still being destroyed. Of those that do survive, around 75% occur in small fragments and remain vulnerable to destruction.
The “Save Our Magnificent Meadows” project led by Ulster Wildlife has been working to protect and restore remaining grasslands throughout the Fermanagh and Omagh area, working with individuals, council, schools and landowners to raise awareness and give advice and practical support on the importance of conserving our declining meadows which were once a natural feature of our landscape and heritage.
The project has conserved colonies of endangered species and has created new habitats for other priority species. The project recognises the links of local meadows to local culture and folklore within communities and supports landowners in overcoming obstacles in meadow management.
Biodiversity: It’s Our Duty
The Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern-Ireland) 2011 (WANE) is the primary tool for the conservation and protection of Northern Ireland’s threatened or endangered wildlife. Whilst the WANE Act has introduced new species to protected lists, tightened controls on invasive species and increased penalties for wildlife crime, a significant change for Council was the introduction of a new Biodiversity Duty for all public bodies.
Why is the Duty required?
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.
In essence, the aim of the duty is to raise the profile and visibility of biodiversity and to make it an integral part of policy and decision making. 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
Both Fermanagh and Omagh legacy Councils employed Biodiversity Officers and began developing LBAP’s in 2005 and 2006 respectively, in partnership with the Ulster Wildlife Trust. These legacy plans now provide the basis on which this new LBAP for the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area has been produced.
Strengthened legislation through the Biodiversity Duty for public bodies and the continued recognition in the NI Biodiversity Strategy that LBAP delivery is important, has ensured that protecting our environment has remained high on our Council’s agenda.
The Corporate Plan for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council 2015 – 2019 clearly reflects this in its Mission,
“Leading and serving our community, working with others to promote quality of life, quality places and quality services for all.”
This is transferred through in the Corporate Themes;
• People and Community – Quality of Life
• Place and Environment – Protecting and creating quality places
To this end, a new Biodiversity Steering Group for the Fermanagh and Omagh area was set up in 2014 to begin the process of developing the next phase of LBAP for our new Council area. The steering group currently has a membership of representatives from Council, local experts, statutory and non-statutory organisations.
Following a detailed revision of the existing biodiversity audits, public consultation and steering group consideration, a selection of local habitats and species were picked for action in this first phase of the LBAP.
The Fermanagh and Omagh Local Biodiversity Action Plan can be downloaded here.
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
Do Your Bit for Biodiversity
There are several ways in which you, as an individual or organisation, can get involved and play a vital part in enhancing and maintaining Fermanagh and Omagh’s 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 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. See our signposting page for contact details of where to report wildlife crime
- 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.
To find out more about the Fermanagh and Omagh LBAP or how you can DO YOUR BIT for biodiversity, please contact:
Fermanagh and Omagh Biodiversity Officer
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council
Council Biodiversity Projects and Events
Biodiversity Recording Project
Recording is a very important part of helping look after our local biodiversity, as there is a general lack of records and if we don’t know what biodiversity we have we can’t help conserve it! Check out our events page for your nearest recording event or contact your local Biodiversity Officer.
Why not download our recording sheet and ‘help your local biodiversity – get recording!’
Species Recording Sheet
Bee Recording Sheet
Butterfly Recording Sheet
It is very easy to get recording and help your local biodiversity; tell us what you have seen and where you saw it!
To submit a record you need to tell us:
- What you saw
- When you saw it (date and time)
- Where you saw it (grid reference if you know)
- How many you saw
- Who you are (name and contacts)
You can find your location as a grid reference easily by visiting www.gridreference.ie and zooming in on the map. Remember, your photographs can count as records too. If you find something and don’t know what it is you can send us your photographs.
Please submit your records to the Biodiversity Officer at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, 03003031777 or email on email@example.com or directly online at the Centre for Data and Environmental Recording (CEDaR) http://www.nmni.com/cedar
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.