As COVID level 5 restrictions rumble on into spring, a 2 part Coastwatch ‘Biodiversity in rural areas’ zoom meeting took place on March 6th 2021 with 78 people registered and 59 logged on.
In Part 1, open to the public we welcomed several farmers. After a power point presentation of Coastwatch autumn 2020 survey results on coastal land use, habitats, select biota and threats (available here), the new DAFM Farm and Community Biodiversity Scheme was introduced by Pippa Hackett Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity at the department of Agriculture. She described the small pilot scheme open for applications (see summary in box below). It is designed around cooperation and pooling of expertise of farmers, other landowners, biodiversity experts, NGOs, community groups and farm advisors etc to put in place practical measures to enhance and restore biodiversity around farms and other landholdings. If an application is successful, then a formal group has to be formed to draw down the contract.
Participants had lots of questions and most related to the grant scheme were answered. One important one for Coastwatchers was that restoring the biodiversity of a water body by measures taken on land would also be welcome.
One question which the minister offered to get back on was over ‘Basic Payments’:
What if a group proposed restoration of a feature like a pond, or a meander in a stream, or say creation of a linear reedbed with willow edge to intercept nutrient loss from fields sloping towards the sea? Would the farmers be sure that if approved for doing this work with the pilot grant to support biodiversity, it will not result in loss of basic payment or other farm calculation to the farmer for years to come.
Follow up: since the meeting, three proposals have germinated – in case anyone wants to join:
Farming dune systems: Dunes in different counties with a range of challenges including Invasive (alien) species control, visitor control to prevent burning and trampling and restoration measures.
Coastal stream rehabilitation where farmers and land owners join to address one now miserably sad coastal stream.
A saltmarsh proposal; farming saltmarsh biodiversity enhancement and coping with climate change One farmer already reached out to a local bee expert to look at current bee populations on some saltmarshes and coastal land to see what could be done to extend that to others. Also the protection of rare plants where sea level rise threatens the site.
At time of writing DAFM is still working on the basic payment question. Updates on – https://www.facebook.com/Coastwatch-8955392153/
Part 2 was an internal Coastwatch surveyor 2020 meeting to review some of the results, verification and follow up action. Maurice Murphy gave a short presentation on Castlemaine Harbour Natura 2000 site (available here). He zoomed in on one sub area with seagrass beds, brent geese and other riches, showing how the number of different shore users and pressures had increased, with still no management measures or plan in sight. See Coastwatch news for information thought by participants.
Acknowledgements: A huge thank you to qmeeto.com for both running the invites and event. Also all who participated and especially Minister Pippa Hackett for joining us. Thank you to Bernie Connolly for helping in the preparation and facilitating the question and Answer session and Maurice Murphy for power point.
NEXT MEETING: Sat 27th March at 5 pm introduced by David Healy, Coastwatch surveyor but this time wearing the Mayor of Fingal county council hat with invite to both Dublin and Fingal biodiversity officers to contribute. Focus on Maritime Spatial Planning and biodiversity. This includes including urban and resort issues and biodiversity action plans.