Corncrake may become no more than a memory if habitat degradation continues

Species such as the Corncrake, the Curlew and the Freshwater Pearl Mussel may become no more than a memory if the degradation of habitats in Ireland continues, a new report by the EPA has found.

Both the Corncrake and the Curlew are placed on BirdWatch Ireland’s red-list, which is based on their conservation status.

Today, the EPA launched its sixth ‘State of the Environment’ Report, which provides an overview of the condition of our waters, air and natural resources and the impact of the main economic sectors on the environment.

The report found that Ireland’s nature is under threat, with recent assessments finding that just over a half of all the species in Ireland protected under the EU Habitats Directive are in a favourable condition.

Only 9% of the protected habitats that many species need to survive are in a favourable condition, according to the report.

The ranges of several farmland birds declined before the end of the last century and the distribution of these birds remains restricted today, for example corncrake, grey partridge, twite, whinchat and yellowhammer, according to the EPA.

Meanwhile, it found that invasive alien species threaten Ireland’s biodiversity and a co-ordinated all-Ireland approach is needed to deal with this growing problem.

The key pressures on Ireland’s habitats and species include direct habitat damage from peat cutting, wetland drainage/reclamation, over- and under-grazing and water pollution, research from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has shown.

Outlook

Looking to the future, the EPA found that land use changes and the planned intensification of agriculture may lead to further habitat loss.

Some future challenges are emerging alongside the list of current pressures.

Increased land use change as the economy improves may lead to further habitat loss and/ or fragmentation, through the draining of wetlands, for example, it found.

Meanwhile, the implementation of initiatives such as Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 will have to be scrutinised to ensure that they are implemented in a sustainable way.

Food Waste

The environment report also found that in Ireland, food waste costs each Irish household €700 per year.

In Ireland, it is estimated that 509,900t of food waste (251,000t household plus 258,900 tonnes food services) is generated per annum in Ireland.

One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals  is to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030”.

EU-funded research by FUSIONS estimated that 87.6m tonnes of food waste was generated across the EU in 2012.

Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA, said that Ireland has improved its waste infrastructure with a tenfold increase in recycling since 1996.

“Economic recovery, however, is causing an increase in consumption that is driving waste levels up again; food waste alone, for example, costs Irish families on average €700 per year.”