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Conserving Farmland Biodiversity

The Teagasc-hosted conference ‘Conserving Farmland Biodiversity: lessons learned and future prospects’, opened in Wexford today, Wednesday, 25 May. The conference runs for two days and will highlight current and future practices and policies on the maintenance and protection of farmland wildlife. 

Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist, said: “Farmers are aware of the wildlife that occurs on their own farms. All farms have some wildlife habitats such as hedgerows, field margins, watercourses or areas of species-rich grassland. The successful conservation of farmland wildlife depends on the continued awareness and management of farmers to maintain and enhance wildlife habitats.”

There will be renewed EU policy emphasis to halt biodiversity loss by 2020 which will inform and specify actions for biodiversity conservation over the next decade. The updated Irish Biodiversity Action Plan 2010-2015 comes into effect this year and highlights the importance of biodiversity conservation, both in the wider countryside and in protected areas. In its recent Government strategy for agriculture, the Food Harvest 2020 report outlines a vision for the agri-food sector in which the conservation of biodiversity is one of the priority environmental goals.

Dr John Finn, Teagasc Environment researcher, Johnstown Castle, said: “Research by Teagasc and our research partners is helping to guide the most appropriate management for the protection of farmland wildlife in the wider countryside and in High Nature Value farmland. Measuring and demonstrating the successful provision of farmland wildlife as a public good will be an important justification for the long-term delivery of agri-environment schemes and payments.”

The conference is being addressed by leading national and international researchers. In a keynote address, Dr David Baldock from the Institute for European Environmental Policy highlighted how the provision of environmental public goods from agriculture, including farmland biodiversity, will be an increasingly important element of CAP reform. For biodiversity initiatives to be successful, Professor Nick Sotherton from the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, emphasised that they should have clear, evidence-based objectives, which are fully costed, farmer-friendly and regularly reviewed.

The Food Harvest 2020 report highlights commercial opportunities for producers to add value to market products derived from sustainable agricultural systems. This will require farming systems to implement effective biodiversity conservation initiatives.