Biodiversity’s vital role in food production system

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May 14th, 2019

The vital role played by biodiversity in our food production system is set to be highlighted during a week-long celebration of our unique flora and fauna.

National Biodiversity Week (NBW) starts this weekend with a host of over 50 free events set to take place across the country.

The events will take place over nine days from the 18th to the 26th of May and aim to celebrate Irish biodiversity as well as reconnect people with the natural world.

Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health; the theme for this year aims to remind us that we truly rely on biodiversity to feed ourselves and to stay healthy.

Biodiversity sustains our food supply, is a source of medicines, and supports the provision of clean air and fresh water while also contributing to economic development, cultural inspiration and positive mental health.

This may become more difficult in the future with our biodiversity in a place of crisis as revealed in depth by the new IPBES report released last week found one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction.

This does not bode well for human either as our pollinators – the backbone of crop and plant existence – face the possibility of mass extinction.

Around 70 of the 100-odd crop species that we rely on to provide over 90 per cent of the food we eat are dependent on pollination by bees. In Ireland, one third of the 97 types of Irish wild bees are threatened by extinction.

A study published in the journal Biological Conservation earlier this year found that global insect populations – including bees and butterflies – are collapsing largely as a result of intensive agriculture and the heavy use of pesticides.

Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

According to Michael Ewing, the coordinator of the Irish Environmental Network, the “bad behavior” of human beings is “driving millions of species into extinction”.

“In so doing we are plotting the course of our own extinction too,” he warned. “Our food production, healthy soils, fresh water and clean air are all maintained in delicate balance by the complexity of biodiversity.”

He added, however, that food production systems that conserve and encourage biodiversity can produce higher yields and support crops which are naturally more resistant to climatic extremes and diseases.

Such moves are taking hold in Ireland through the likes of Talamh Beo, a grassroots farmers movement formed in Galway earlier this year and aims to explore how ecosystems and people can live alongside each other.

Small-scale food production was recently discussed as a key component of rebooting Ireland’s food system and addressing runaway emissions by 2030 at the Make Sustainable For All conference in Croke Park.

Marie Coulaud, co-coordinator of NBW 2019, said that the week is an opportunity to discover animals and plants present in Ireland and to become aware that “these same species may disappear one day”.

“Every choice we make every day impacts our world, negatively or positively, National Biodiversity Week is a perfect opportunity to show how we can contribute to a better world with our actions,” she added.

See for yourself by checking out the events below:

Walk on Mountfallen Biodiversity Farm – 22 May

Drumshanbo biodiversity farmer Tommy Earley is opening up his organic farm in and showcasing his work in nature conservation for all ages.

The walk takes place at 10.30am and 2.30pm – it will include a look at the unique habitats there such as raised boglands, and woodland as well as a look at moths, butterflies and dragonflies.

More details here.

Life above Land: Creating a habitat for pollinators – 22 and 25 May

Because bees are such a crucial part of our ecosystem and are facing such a severe threat at the moment, it’s important to know how to create a home for our furry little friends.

This event in Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Tipperary will explore how to do just that – as well as incorporate a lesson in the healing benefits of herbs.

Kicking off at 11am will be a nature trail walk in the sensory and medical gardens, followed by a talk Davie Philips of Cultivate about the Sustainable Development Goal number 15 – Life on Land.

More details here.

International Biodiversity Day – 19 May

From 12-5pm in the Organic Centre Rossinver Co. Leitrim, there will be a a day of guest speakers, demonstrations, food and children’s workshops all in order to raise awareness of Irish biodiversity.

Guest speakers and demonstrations on the day, including Biodiversity Champion Thomas Earley,  John Carey Agri Ecologist, National Parks and Wildlife Service,  Karen Kennedy, Community Water Officer & Dr Agnieszka Piwowarczyk, Soil scientist.

More details here.

Biodiversity Tour at Irish Seed Savers – 18 May

This year as part of National Biodiversity Week Irish Seed Savers will be hosting a Biodiversity Tour to showcase our vital conservation work on Saturday 18th May at 11:00am

This FREE guided tour will highlight the importance of protecting Ireland’s food biodiversity and heritage apple trees throughout our twenty acre farm.

The tour will focus on our organic seed gardens, heritage orchards and our custom built seed bank that houses our seed collection, showing how our work contributes to conserving Ireland’s biodiversity and food security.

Please bring sturdy boots and appropriate clothing depending on the weather.

More details here.

By Marianne Foody

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