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Sustainability indicators for farmland wildlife

The Food Harvest 2020 report highlights the requirement for Ireland to build on its green credentials in food production, processing and marketing. The E-ruminant project is conducting detailed measurements on over 70 Irish grassland farms, with the aim of developing, testing and validating the use of sustainability indicators for Irish farming systems. This will focus on profitability, agricultural production, water use, greenhouse gas production, energy use, and biodiversity.

In this part of the project, we focus on developing methods for the inclusion of farmland habitats and wildlife in sustainability assessments. We have conducted a survey of wildlife habitat quantity and quality on 70 farms to provide benchmark data for the development of a wildlife habitat index. On each farm, all habitats were mapped, all field boundaries categorized by dominant species, structure and features and a further structural and floristic survey of eight randomly selected field boundaries per farm. A survey of grassland plant species at field level was carried out on a selection of ‘intensive’ or ‘improved’ grassland fields (Sheridan et al. 2011), as a measure of cropped habitat quality.

The wildlife habitat index, in combination with farm input data, will be used to develop practical indicators of farmland habitats to underpin food quality assurance schemes and to provide measures for improvement of farmland wildlife habitats on more intensive farms.

For further information, contact Dr John Finn john.finn(at)teagasc.ie


E-Ruminant is funded by the Research Stimulus Fund of the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Irish National Development Plan.