Hedgerow Initiatives Launched

New Initiatives Launched to Safeguard Ireland’s Unique Hedgerows, with the support of the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Ireland’s unique hedgerow network is receiving the recognition it deserves with the establishment of a National Hedgerow Database and a Hedgerow Appraisal System which are available at www.biodiversityireland.ie, the website of the National Biodiversity Data Centre.  The Centre is operated by Compass Informatics on behalf of the Heritage Council and the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.

The new initiatives launched today by Woodlands of Ireland, in co-operation with the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Ecological Landscape Design Consultants, the Heritage Council and the National Biodiversity Data Centre include:

  • The creation of a National Hedgerow Database to house current and future records of detailed hedgerow data from across the country (on www.biodiversityireland.ie)
  • A Hedgerow Appraisal document that includes a standardised hedgerow recording field methodology and guidance on analysing hedgerow data (also on www.biodiversityireland.ie)
  • A  repository for County and Regional Hedgerow Surveys accessible to the general public, which will be available soon at www.heritagecouncil.ie
  • A website www.ecolandscapes.ie to encourage the general public, landowners, schools, local authorities and landscapers to create native woodlands and other habitats that enhance the environment and create vital habitats for wildlife
  • An awareness campaign to educate landowners and local authorities about hedgerows, and the value of using native trees and shrubs in habitat creation

For those interested in the detailed hedgerow data sets, especially hedgerow surveyors, practitioners, contractors and ecologists, log on to www.biodiversityireland.ie to access data from the 15 County and Regional Hedgerow surveys completed to date. The Hedgerow Appraisal System and the Standard Survey Methodology template are also available at www.biodiversityireland.ie Of particular interest to members of the public and schools are the full text documents of all the hedgerow surveys carried out to date, which will be available at www.heritagecouncil.ie very soon.

Hedgerow surveyors and the general public can now utilise this resource to record details about hedgerows and keep a permanent record at County and Regional level. Anyone can then access general information on hedgerows from right across the country at www.heritagecouncil.ie and more detailed datasets at www.biodiversityireland.ie – the websites of the Heritage Council and of the National Biodiversity Data Centre. In addition, a new website www.ecolandscapes.ie  is also being launched to help the general public, local authorities, and schools create new woodland and other habitats using native Irish trees, shrubs and plants.

Ireland’s intricate network of hedgerows, primarily comprised of native trees, shrubs and flowers, are a unique feature of our landscape and vital for safeguarding our environment.  It is estimated that there are over 400,000km of native hedgerows, some dating back at least a thousand years in Ireland and this supports a vast array of wildlife from birds and bats to insects, invertebrates and mammals.  However hedgerows need to be properly managed to function effectively and many hedgerows are now under threat and vulnerable to destruction – especially from clearance as farming practices continue to change. Poor hedgerow management is also a reason for their decline as they need to be properly maintained using traditional techniques to ensure their health, vitality and proper functioning.

Ireland is one of the least wooded countries in Europe and hedgerows help compensate for this by providing an inter-connected habitat for plants and wildlife that is vital for woodland biodiversity. Most of our hedgerows were planted over the last 300 years or so following the enactment of legislation in the 18th century requiring landowners to enclose their land.  However Heritage Hedgerows which are considerably older than the majority of hedgerows often have strong links with native woodland that date back thousands of years and are of even greater biodiversity and historical value.  Irish hedgerows were managed for hundreds of years using traditional crafts such as hedge laying and coppicing.  However these skills are being lost and need to be re-kindled so that the hedgerow network can continue to thrive.

“People need to be aware of the importance of hedgerows for our environment and health”, said Dr Declan Little, Project Manager at Woodlands of Ireland.  “We take our hedgerows for granted and are losing the ability to manage them to get the maximum benefits from them”.  They are generally man-made structures and they need to be skilfully managed and rejuvenated so that they function as effective farmland barriers and boundaries, as well as vital habitats and landscape corridors for a vast array of native plants and wildlife.  The benefits of our hedgerows are enormous and provide a considerable range of Ecosystem Services ”.

Hedgerow surveyors are being asked to record hedgerows using the survey methodology template provided in order to ensure data consistency and quality. Woodlands of Ireland urge that all future surveys are carried out using the Hedgerow Appraisal Document and that all hedgerow data is deposited in the National Hedgerow Database. This will ensure that future survey data can be objectively compared with previous surveys and that there will be an increasing amount of valuable information available for all to access. The data will inform future hedgerow policy development and best management practise, including coppicing and hedge-laying. These skilful management techniques involve rejuvenating old hedges by cutting through the living stems of trees and shrubs, bending them back at an angle and binding them together to create a neat, strong hedge. These rejuvenated hedgerow barriers keep farm animals safely in their fields and provide shelter, as well as vital ecosystem services for the benefit of the wider environment and people.

– Text above taken from http://www.heritagecouncil.ie/.  See that website for further details.