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Councils Taking Action for Biodiversity

Dr. Úna FitzPatrick Project co-ordinator with the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan writes for Council Journal on the nature of the scheme and why partnerships with local authorities are so valuable.

The pollination of our crops is a very important ecosystem service we must maintain into the future, both for our food crops and for our wild plants. It is a biodiversity service that contributes to the Irish economy, to our nutritional and mental health and to our sense of place and our ability to market this island as a ‘green isle’. Bees are our most important pollinating insects. In Ireland, we have 99 bee species: one honeybee; 21 bumblebees and 77 solitary bee species.

Contrary to popular belief, it is actually our wild bees – our bumblebees and solitary bees (and not their domesticated cousin, the honeybee) that are responsible for most pollination. Since the 1980s, half of our wild bee species have undergone huge declines. Like humans, bees need food and shelter to survive. They need landscapes with lots of different wildflowers, from which to feed, and safe places to nest, free from pesticides.

Unfortunately, landscape changes in Ireland over the last 50 years have led to the extinction of two bee species and put one-third of our bumblebees under threat of extinction. Launched in late 2015, the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is a shared plan of action across all sectors – calling for actions on farmland, public land and private land to try to make Ireland a place where pollinators can survive and thrive. The Pollinator Plan makes freely available guidelines on how everyone can help, providing evidence-based actions written specifically for each sector – for gardeners, community groups, businesses, farmers, councils and schools. By making these resources freely available and simply offering the tools and information with which people can help, it has facilitated one of the most successful conservation initiatives this island has seen. Councils can play a leading role in making Ireland more pollinator friendly.

The 40-page booklet Councils: actions to help pollinators outlines 30 pollinator-friendly actions Local Authorities can choose from. There are clear instructions for each action, suggestions for where it might be applied, which staff could assist, and a pollinator-friendly planting code, which gives you lots of options for pollinator-friendly planting on streets/parks, in large open spaces or hanging baskets! The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan Most Councils/ Local Authorities are already taking actions to support pollinators on public land. Many are also working with local community groups, residents’ associations and schools to help raise awareness of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. To better support these efforts and to better promote the work being undertaken, in 2019 we developed a framework to recognise Councils as formal partners of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. It’s easy to sign up! See www.pollinators. ie/councils .

Current Council Partners (as of May 2019):
• Ards and North Down Borough Council
• Dublin City Council
• Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council
• Fingal County Council
• Kilkenny County Council
• Limerick County Council
• Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council
• Tipperary County Council
• Waterford City & County Council
• Wexford County Council

Becoming a partner offers Councils/ a suite of benefits in addition to biodiversity enhancement, including:
• Partnership with an internationally renowned strategy to reverse declines in biodiversity. A framework outlining options with the flexibility to choose from a variety of low/cost neutral evidence-based actions that will have a positive impact.
• Access to training, guidance documents, support materials, case studies, etc. to help staff decide on appropriate actions. For more information, see: https://pollinators.ie/councils
• Helps demonstrate compliance with statutory requirements such as the Council’s Biodiversity statutory responsibilities.
• Enhancing the local landscape for pollinators supports local food producers
• A framework to help support the delivery of key plans:– National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 (Action 4.1.8. Implement All-Ireland Pollinator Plan) – Biodiversity Strategy for Northern Ireland to 2020 – County Development Plan (protecting natural habitats and plants objectives)
– Green Infrastructure Plan (protecting and managing natural wildlife corridors and habitats) – Climate Change Adaptation Measures (resilience to climate change) – Local Biodiversity Action Plan – County Biodiversity Plan (pollinator actions) – EU Habitats Directive (ecological networks an buffer areas)
• A demonstration of your biodiversity credentials to local residents who are increasingly concerned with supporting environmentally friendly initiatives.
• Actions to support community engagement and strengthen relationships with local groups who are also working to protect our pollinators, e.g. Tidy Towns groups, Ulster in Bloom.
• Actions to support Local Agenda 21
• Actions to support the Green Schools Programme (Biodiversity Theme) (ROI) and Eco-Schools (NI
• Actions taken for pollinators can contribute to the Green Flag Award for parks under the sustainability, conservation and community involvement criteria.

Visit www.pollinators.ie to find out more about how your Council can get involved.

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