Kildare County Council has formally launched a hedgerow appraisal survey on the condition of hedgerows in County Kildare. The survey launch coincided with celebrations and events marking Hedgerow Week 2023. Findings from the survey, which is titled ‘County Kildare Hedgerow Appraisal Survey 2022’, were presented to the public, at an event in Newbridge Library.
As part of the launch event, special guests Éanna Ní Lamhna and Mary O’Connor were on hand to share their knowledge and wisdom on the history, heritage, and ecology of hedgerows in Ireland, and to put the survey report’s findings into context.
The report explains that, “hedgerows are important wildlife habitats and ecological corridors, allowing the movement and dispersal of many species through the wider countryside. […] Hedgerows also provide invaluable wider ecosystem services; their regulatory functions include carbon sequestration, flood protection, protection from soil erosion and prevention of aquatic siltation. They are an important cultural resource, and many mark old routeways, or green roads, form part of townland boundaries or are remnants of ancient woodlands. The landscape value of hedges in the Kildare landscape cannot be underestimated. They play important roles for agriculture, acting as stock barriers, providing shade and shelter, bolstering pollination, and playing host to many beneficial species of invertebrates.”
Some of the key survey findings included the following:
- Twenty-five different shrub species were recorded in the sampled hedges; only fifteen of these species are native to Ireland.
- Hawthorn was the most frequently recorded hedge, being found in 88.2% of hedges, followed by Elder (41.6%), which has taken over Blackthorn (34.8%) to be the second most common woody shrub in Kildare hedgerows.
- Oak and Birch species were not found in the shrub layer in 2022; a decline of 5% and 2% respectively, since the last county survey in 2006.
- Hedgerow trees, i.e., the tall tree layer, were recorded being present in 75% of the recorded hedges in Kildare, an increase of 6%.
- A total of twenty-four tree species were found in sampled hedges in this survey; just twelve of these were native species.
- The most commonly occurring hedgerow tree in County Kildare is Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) which is found in 50% of hedges. Hawthorn (29%) and Sycamore (17%) are the next most common tree species.
- The study estimates the current hedgerow extent in Kildare to be in the realm of 13,652km, and that around 1,146km of hedgerow has been removed across Kildare in the last sixteen years. The declines have been driven mainly by forestry (41%), agriculture (41%) and road and residential development (11%).
Speaking at the event, Kildare County Council’s Biodiversity Officer, Méabh Boylan said, “in Kildare we have a relatively high level of hedgerow coverage, when compared with other areas of Ireland, however this recent survey indicates that the quantity and quality of hedgerows in the county are declining. Over the last sixteen years we see a decline in hedgerow species diversity, a more disjointed network of hedgerows, and an overall pattern of a decline in hedgerow quality. There is a body of work to be done to reverse these trends. Celebrating National Hedgerow Week is a part of that work. And it was an absolute pleasure to have the eminent ecologist, Mary O’Connor, and the wonderful environmentalist broadcaster, Éanna Ní Lamhna to bring hedgerows to life for our community here in Newbridge. Celebrating our hedgerows and facilitating opportunities for communities to learn about hedge-laying, native hedge-planting, and the importance of our hedgerows for all biodiversity, including ourselves, will be central to ensuring hedgerows are appreciated, protected and conserved in the longer term.”
The ‘County Kildare Hedgerow Appraisal Survey 2022’ is available to read and download at: Hedgerows – Kildare County Council (kildarecoco.ie)
Source: Kildare County Council