Ireland’s 400,000 hedgerows go digital

Ireland’s unique hedgerow network is receiving the recognition it deserves with the establishment of a national hedgerow database and a hedgerow appraisal system that are available at www.biodiversityireland.ie.

Hedgerow surveyors and the general public can now use this resource to record details about hedgerows and keep a permanent record at county and regional level.

Anyone can then access general information on hedgerows from right across the country at www.heritagecouncil.ie and more detailed information at www.biodiversityireland.ie, the websites of the Heritage Council and of the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

In addition, a new website www.ecolandscapes.ie is also being launched to help the general public, local authorities and schools create new woodland and other habitats using native Irish trees, shrubs and plants.

Ireland’s intricate network of hedgerows, primarily comprised of native trees, shrubs and flowers, are a unique feature of our landscape and vital for safeguarding our environment.

It is estimated that there are more than 400,000km of native hedgerows, some dating back at least a thousand years in Ireland and this supports a vast array of wildlife from birds and bats to insects, invertebrates and mammals.

However hedgerows need to be properly managed to function effectively and many hedgerows are now under threat and vulnerable to destruction – especially from clearance as farming practices continue to change.

Poor hedgerow management is also a reason for their decline as they need to be properly maintained using traditional techniques to ensure their health, vitality and proper functioning.

“People need to be aware of the importance of hedgerows for our environment and health,” said Dr Declan Little, project manager at Woodlands of Ireland.

“We take our hedgerows for granted and are losing the ability to manage them to get the maximum benefits from them.

“They are generally man-made structures and they need to be skilfully managed and rejuvenated so that they function as effective farmland barriers and boundaries, as well as vital habitats and landscape corridors for a vast array of native plants and wildlife.  The benefits of our hedgerows are enormous and provide a considerable range of Ecosystem Services.”

The new initiatives were launched this morning by Woodlands of Ireland, in co-operation with the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Ecological Landscape Design Consultants, the Heritage Council and the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

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