In Ireland, almost 80% of total expenditure – €1.1 billion – on biodiversity between 2010 and 2015 came from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Despite this investment, a 2019 national assessment of the status of EU-protected habitats and species revealed that agricultural practices negatively impact over 70% of habitats.

This is according to CAP4Nature which has identified elements that underpin the multiple benefits that nature provides to agriculture and society.

Other elements revealed that 85% of 59 major habitat types are in unfavourable condition.

Of this proportion, 39% are described as ‘bad’ and another 46% as ‘inadequate’, with 46% displaying ongoing declining trends.

Farming, wildlife and landscape

Meanwhile, Prof. John Quinn, head of UCC Ornithology and member of the CAP4Nature working group, pointed to how over the last 50 years the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has had an enormous impact on the country’s farming, wildlife and landscape.

Dramatically improved agricultural output and rural development have benefited farmers and Ireland enormously.

He continued: “But it has also come at an enormous cost to wildlife and the ecosystem services provided by nature.

“This is coming back to bite us because the environment upon which we rely is in serious decline. It is time to make sure that in the next round of CAP, funding works for people and for nature.”

Funding and supports

Quinn went on to say that in Ireland most money that is spent on nature protection comes from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Unfortunately, this has had little or no positive impact on protecting nature, so something has to change.

He added: “Our aim is to provide the Government with some guiding principles to ensure that the next round of CAP works for nature and benefits farming in the process.

“Farming sustainably can deliver benefits for our national carbon budgets, for the quality of our air and our water, and for nature, which in turn can benefit farming.

“It is essential that farmers are helped financially to achieve these benefits. In addition, some farmers are finding that they can save money by farming more sustainably.”

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