FIRST INVENTORY OF IRELAND’S BIODIVERSITY LAUNCHED
NATIONAL BIODIVERSITY DATA CENTRE
The National Biodiversity Data Centre yesterday (Wednesday 23rd March 2011) launched the results of Ireland’s first ever inventory of the country’s biodiversity in a report entitled “State of Knowledge, Ireland’s Biodiversity 2010”. The report is available online at http://biodiversity.biodiversityireland.ie/
Ireland’s biodiversity, our natural capital, is the foundation upon which our agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism sector depends and is vital for sustaining the societal services we often take for granted such as clean water, productive soil and clean air. The National Biodiversity Data Centre has a comprehensive data management system which to date has brought together 60 national databases, comprising of 1.6 million records of over 10,000 species, spanning a period of 200 years. Despite these extensive records no full inventory or assessment of the state of knowledge on Ireland’s biodiversity resources has ever been completed.
Speaking at the launch Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs Jimmy Deenihan T.D, said, “we have a duty as citizens to pass on our natural heritage in good shape to future generations. Protection of our biodiversity is not a luxury; it is a necessity as it sustains us through our food, provides us with building material and helps protect us from floods and climate change events. A crucial element in any policy or decision making process is the provision of good and clear evidence. The work that has gone into these reports is to be commended at a time when the usefulness of data has never been clearer. This audit of Ireland’s biological resource is a key piece of information in seeing where we are and what actions need to be taken into the future, especially in the context of the further analysis of the economic value of our biological resources”.
Commenting on the Report Director of the National Biodiversity Data Centre Dr. Liam Lysaght said “up until now the full extent of Ireland’s biodiversity was unknown. This report will, for the first time, allow us to accurately describe Ireland’s biological resources and identify the knowledge gaps that exist. As the Irish economy seeks ways to revitalise itself, gaining a greater understanding of Ireland’s biodiversity and protecting Ireland’s natural capital needs to be one of the building blocks of our recovery”.
In August 2010, the Data Centre brought together a team of leading scientists from state bodies, NGOs and academic institutions to conduct the first ever audit of Ireland’s biodiversity resource. The audit found that Ireland is currently home to over 31,000 different species. Of these 60% of Ireland’s biodiversity are invertebrates and only 10% are species such as plants, birds and mammals which people are most familiar with. In the report, scientists also estimated that there are at least 7,000 species of algae and fungi that have yet to be discovered in Ireland.
Emerging from the audit are key knowledge gaps which the Data Centre believes need to be filled over the next few years. Filling these gaps will ensure that we have a full understanding of the unique features of our natural heritage, a strategic framework to efficiently target conservation efforts, and the tools which will enable the knowledge we have gathered to contribute to the development of sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors.
“There is a standard methodology for reviewing what is known about the status of species and determining their risk of extinction. To date a formal conservation assessment of our biodiversity has only been completed for 13% of Ireland’s species. Filling the key knowledge gaps identified in this report will enable us to achieve a conservation assessment for over 30% of Ireland’s species. This would make Ireland one of the European leaders in this field”, added Dr. Lysaght.
In addition to the knowledge gaps, emerging from the report are a number of key infrastructural requirements which the Data Centre has identified as crucial in managing change in the Irish countryside. These include the production of a National Habitat Map, a National Vegetation Classification and a National Soil Biodiversity Monitoring Programme.
“As the Irish countryside continues to face a number of complex challenges from changes in farming practice, climate change and infrastructural developments it is essential that we look for solutions to manage these pressures in both an informed way and one that ensures the long term protection of our vital biological resources. The infrastructural needs emerging from the report would greatly assist the conservation of Ireland’s biological diversity and provide an understanding of the changing dynamics of the Irish countryside”, said Dr. Lysaght.