Action needed to meet national and international conservation targets, new report finds

Published by James Orr on

December 6th, 2017

More action is needed if Ireland is to meet its national, European and international conservation targets, the latest National Biodiversity Indicators report reveals.

The new report published by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) used a range of indicators to summarise the condition of Ireland’s natural heritage and explores the public’s attitude towards wildlife.

The researchers compiled information on biodiversity with help from governmental bodies and NGOs to evaluate progress made towards reaching various conservation targets.  Ireland is only the fifth EU country to publish a report on national biodiversity indicators.

The report is organized around eight focal areas – including awareness of biodiversity, the status of biodiversity and threats to biodiversity – which contain a set of 33 headline indicators with 87 supporting sub-indicators.

Inadequate progress

Just over 60 per cent of the biodiversity indicators in the report show inadequate progress towards conservation while 5 per cent of indicators are unclear, the report found. Progress has been made in the remaining 33 per cent of biodiversity indicators.

The report indicates that awareness of biodiversity, combating threats and knowledge of biodiversity are the areas with the most positive trends.

Dr Tomás Murray of the NBDC, who co-ordinated the report said that “our awareness and knowledge of Irish wildlife is increasing and we’re beginning to take more affirmative actions to conserve Irish biodiversity.”

However, there are significant knowledge gaps in our impact on biodiversity outside Ireland and benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services.

“More concerted action is needed if Ireland is to meet targets listed under the National Biodiversity Plan and international conservation targets set by the EU and the UN” Dr Murray added.

Threats to Biodiversity

The report states that the biggest threats to Irish biodiversity are habitat loss and fragmentation, unsustainable exploitation, pollution and invasive alien species.

According to the NBDC, 91 per cent of Ireland’s habitats designated under EU law are of ‘inadequate’ or ‘bad’ status and the number of invasive species in Ireland has increased by 183 per cent in the past 50 years.

Of the 10 per cent of Ireland’s 30,000 species that have had their conservation status assessed, 3 per cent are extinct, 15 per cent are endangered and 9 per cent are listed as near threatened.

The Green Party’s Councillor Malcolm Noonan said that unless there was an increase in funding for local authorities and the National Parks and Wildlife Service we could face “significant decline and extinction of species”.

The NBDC report should “act as a catalyst for change” in how our Government views natural heritage, he added, urging the new Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD to “fully resource” the state and semi-state bodies  “charged with protecting nature”.

International Targets

Ireland is a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is committed to the 20 biodiversity targets set out in the Convention’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, commonly known as the Aichi 2020 targets.

Director of the NBDC, Dr Liam Lysaght, said that the new set of national biodiversity indicators are vital in tracking “how Ireland is doing on meeting its biodiversity commitments”.

Dr Lysaght added that having a “detailed and robust” record for how biodiversity is changing “has become all the more important now, as we see the impact of climate change.”

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James Orr

James is The Green New's Biodiversity Reporter and a wildlife and landscape photographer based in Dublin. James has a BA in Zoology from TCD.