Combining the removal of non-native trees and the reinstallation of natural water systems, an Irish woodland LIFE project is a good example of habitat restoration. In fact, the beneficiary, Coillte, won an Energy Globe Award in June 2010 for the project.
Four native woodland habitat types are found in Ireland: alluvial woodland, bog woodland, woodland associated with limestone pavement, and yew woodland. Though these woodlands are of extremely high nature conservation value and provide habitat, shelter and food to many native plant and animal species, they are restricted in their distribution and are listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive.
In Ireland, they are threatened by afforestation with exotic tree species, natural regeneration and spread of exotic species, trespass and damage caused by feral goats, livestock and deer, artificial drainage, and illegal dumping of domestic and commercial waste. A successful LIFE project, ‘Restoring priority woodland habitats in Ireland’ (LIFE05 NAT/IRL/000182), however, restored around 550 ha of these priority habitats on nine Natura 2000 sites.
On many of the sites, the presence of rare habitats was previously unknown and the project led to a significant increase in national coverage of managed priority woodland habitats. Three of the sites were LIFE demonstration sites, where project work primarily involved public awareness and education over the four-year period.
At the end of the project, monitoring showed that the targeted habitats were improving overall, though some areas are more responsive than others. The project removed more than twice as many of non-native conifers and nearly twice as many non-native broad-leaves than foreseen. Targets were also achieved for the removal of exotic invasive shrubs and only 60% of the expected fencing or boundary wall repair works were actually required.
The beneficiary is committed to the long-term management of the project site, and connections made during the project at the local and national level are set to continue after the project to ensure future protection of priority woodlands in Ireland. The project also encouraged co-operation among NGOs and statutory bodies tasked with the protection of Ireland’s natural resources.
A key way of facilitating these relationships was to make results of initiatives widely available to stakeholders. For this reason, the project focused in particular on producing effective dissemination materials and a website.