Applied Ecology Unit

Gaillimh, Ireland

Applied Ecology Unit

Gaillimh, Ireland
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Staunton J.,Applied Ecology Unit | Williams C.D.,Biocontrol | Mc Donnell R.J.,University of California at Riverside | Fleming G.T.A.,Microbiology | And 2 more authors.
Applied Ecology and Environmental Research | Year: 2014

Although wetlands are of ecological and economic importance, they continue to be lost to anthropogenic activities such as infilling. The impacts of wetland infilling with construction and demolition (C&D) waste on wetland plant and dipteran (Insecta: Diptera) communities were examined. Areas of wetland infilled with C&D waste compared to non-infilled areas had: a) higher soil pH and lower soil moisture/organic content b) a relatively higher percentage of ruderal plant communities c) relatively fewer dipteran families that were wetland specialist, gall-forming, parasitic and haematophagous d) relatively lower abundances and species richness of marsh flies (Diptera: Sciomyzidae). Challenges encountered during this study included locating C&D waste sites obtaining permission from landowners to undertake this study frequent damage and theft of equipment due to human interference, machinery and infilling activity. Given the current paucity of data regarding the ecological impacts of infilling with C&D waste on wetlands and the considerable challenges with undertaking such studies, we make recommendations for appropriate site selection and monitoring at C&D waste infill sites. © 2014, ALÖKI Kft.

Staunton J.,Applied Ecology Unit | Williams C.D.,Biocontrol | Morrison L.,Earth and Ocean science and Ryan Institute | Henry T.,Earth and Ocean science | And 2 more authors.
Land Use Policy | Year: 2015

Although infilling of wetlands (legal and illegal) is commonplace, little is known about the spatio-temporal distribution of construction & demolition (C&D) waste infill sites at a local scale. This is of particular concern given the multiple functions of wetlands including, inter alia, habitat provision, flood control and water storage. This case study from an Irish local authority quantifies, for the first time, the use of wetland habitats for C&D waste infilling in addition to identifying patterns of C&D waste site distribution and recording issues of non-compliance. We found that C&D waste cover on study sites grew from an estimated <10. ha in 1995 to >200. ha in 2010 within which time rapid economic growth occurred. Wet grasslands and peatlands were the most commonly infilled habitats, particularly near urban areas and adjacent to major roads. Of greater concern was that over 40% of C&D waste sites granted permits were located within one kilometre of Special Areas of Conservation (EU Habitats Directive) and 54% were located on extremely vulnerable aquifers. Conditions attached to infilling permits were frequently broken and commonly occurring illegal infilling sites had similar distribution patterns to the legal sites. Providing local authorities with sufficient resources to effectively police these sites in combination with examining alternative uses for C&D waste (e.g. recycling), are likely to be the most effective ways of dealing with these issues. More rigorous ecological investigations of proposed infilling sites prior to granting of permits would also limit the number of wetlands affected by infilling. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Sullivan C.A.,Applied Ecology Unit | Sullivan C.A.,Teagasc | Gormally M.J.,Applied Ecology Unit | Finn J.A.,Teagasc
Biological Conservation | Year: 2010

The identification and protection of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland is an objective of the European Rural Development policy which has yet to be met by Member States. Remote sensing and models based on farm statistics are commonly used to identify HNV farmland. Use of datasets such as Corine Landcover Classes is widespread but it has been acknowledged that such datasets can significantly overlook fine-scale biodiversity features. In countries where farmland is predominantly grass-based, there is an added difficulty in distinguishing between grassland types without undertaking field-scale survey work. This study was conducted to improve our knowledge of grassland biodiversity on lowland farms with a view to helping assess their potential conservation value in a High Nature Value farmland context. We analysed the grassland species composition of 603 fields on 32 lowland farms and investigated their relationship to management, ecological and spatial descriptors. Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling (NMS) and Multi-Response Permutation Procedure (MRPP) analyses of the grasslands and their ecology on these farms revealed a continuum between semi-natural and improved agricultural grasslands, including an intermediate Semi-Improved Grassland type. This gradation from improved to semi-natural grassland highlights the biodiversity variation that occurs on farms that are frequently considered to be of low nature value. Statistical analyses showed that management practices, and especially soil fertility, were most strongly associated with grassland type. The detailed description of the grasslands that occur on these lowland farms has the potential to provide a better assessment of the overall nature value of a farm, potentially aiding the identification of Type 2 High Nature Value farmland. Before this can be achieved, however, there is a need to amend the grassland classification system used in Ireland in order that intermediate semi-natural grassland assemblages can be identified at the field level. Field surveys are necessary for this level of detail. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Sullivan C.A.,Teagasc | Sullivan C.A.,Applied Ecology Unit | Finn J.A.,Teagasc | Gormally M.J.,Applied Ecology Unit | Skeffington M.S.,Botany and Plant Science
Biology and Environment | Year: 2013

Sustainable agriculture and the provision of environmental public goods are key deliverables for European farming and food production. Farmland biodiversity, cultural landscapes, soil functionality and climate stability are among the environmental public goods provided through agriculture. Future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) direct payments are intended to be more targeted at the provision of these agricultural deliverables. Field boundaries are an example of such deliverables. They are widespread features that have both environmental and aesthetic functions in farmed landscapes. However, research on their variety, density and contribution to semi-natural habitat cover on farms in Ireland is lacking. This study investigates the diversity and density of all field boundary habitat types on 32 lowland farms in east County Galway, western Ireland. A total of 286km of field boundaries were surveyed across six study sites. Five types of field boundary habitats were recorded. The density of field boundaries on the farms studied was high and could have positive implications for delivery of environmental public goods and sustainable farming metrics. In more intensively farmed areas, field boundaries were the only remaining semi-natural habitat on some farms highlighting the need to retain, and improve the ecological quality, of these features. The condition of one field boundary type (hedgerows) was also investigated in further detail. While the density of field boundaries was high on many of the surveyed farms, we found that the hedgerows on these farms were not necessarily in good condition for wildlife. © ROYAL IRISH ACADEMY.

Sullivan C.A.,Applied Ecology Unit | Sullivan C.A.,Teagasc | Bourke D.,Applied Ecology Unit | Skeffington M.S.,Botany and Plant Science | And 4 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

A significant policy objective is the need for protection of biodiversity not just within designated Natura 2000 sites, but also in areas that occur outside of these sites. However there is a lack of information on existing semi-natural habitat cover on EU farms, making it difficult to assess whether targets for halting the loss of agricultural biodiversity are being met. To achieve these targets, reliable yet easy-to-use methods are needed for accurately identifying priority areas for conservation actions and monitoring biodiversity on a large spatial scale. Remote sensing, farmland statistics and species data have been used in some EU countries to create maps to estimate the extent of semi-natural habitat cover but these are acknowledged as being too broad scale. In this study, we examined a method of fine-scale prediction of the spatial coverage of semi-natural habitats in lowland farms. A generalized additive model (GAM) was used to investigate the relationships between landscape and farm management variables and the lowland farmland habitat biodiversity on 32 farms outside of conservation designations, in a region of western Ireland. Semi-natural habitat cover on lowland farms could be predicted with a model using stocking density, soil diversity and river and stream length. It is proposed that this model could be used to predict the coverage of semi-natural habitats on farms in other regions of Ireland with similar land-use and landscape. A similar modelling approach could be adapted for application in other regions of Ireland and across Europe with different landscapes to predict semi-natural habitat coverage. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Coll J.,NUI Maynooth | Bourke D.,Applied Ecology Unit | Skeffington M.S.,National University of Ireland | Sweeney J.,NUI Maynooth | Gormally M.,National University of Ireland
Irish Geography | Year: 2011

Aim: Understanding the spatial distribution of high priority habitats and developing predictive models using climate and environmental variables to replicate these distributions are desirable conservation goals. The aim of this study was to model and elucidate the contributions of climate and topography to the distribution of a priority blanket bog habitat in Ireland, and to examine how this might inform the development of a climate change predictive capacity for peat-lands in Ireland.Methods: Ten climatic and two topographic variables were recorded for grid cells with a spatial resolution of 10×10 km, covering ~87% of the mainland land surface of Ireland. Presence-absence data were matched to these variables and generalised linear models (GLMs) fitted to identify the main climatic and terrain predictor variables for occurrence of the habitat. Candidate predictor variables were screened for collinearity, and the accuracy of the final fitted GLM was evaluated using fourfold cross-validation based on the area under the curve (AUC) derived from a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) plot. The GLM predicted habitat occurrence probability maps were mapped against the actual distributions using GIS techniques.Results: Despite the apparent parsimony of the initial GLM using only climatic variables, further testing indicated collinearity among temperature and precipitation variables for example. Subsequent elimination of the collinear variables and inclusion of elevation data produced an excellent performance based on the AUC scores of the final GLM. Mean annual temperature and total mean annual precipitation in combination with elevation range were the most powerful explanatory variable group among those explored for the presence of blanket bog habitat.Main conclusions: The results confirm that this habitat distribution in general can be modelled well using the non-collinear climatic and terrain variables tested at the grid resolution used. Mapping the GLM-predicted distribution to the observed distribution produced useful results in replicating the projected occurrence of the habitat distribution over an extensive area. The methods developed will usefully inform future climate change predictive modelling for Ireland. © 2011 Copyright Geographical Society of Ireland.

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