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Funded Projects

  • Avian Diversity and Afforestation Planning Tools

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Research Call

DAFM Reference


DAFM Award

DAFM National Call 2013 13/C/452 UCC, (BWI) €201,509

Project Title:

Avian Diversity and Afforestation Planning Tools

Project Coordinator:

Prof. John O'Halloran

Project Abstract

This project set out to investigate the risks posed to vulnerable habitats and birds in Ireland by afforestation, with a view to informing strategic planning of forest expansion. Information on recent planting was examined to identify pre-planting habitat types and afforestation trends. This analysis was used to identify likely areas for forest expansion in Ireland and to align this information with areas protected by the EU Habitats Directive and also to inform the selection of sites for the collection of new data on bird communities on this project. This collation of data will address for the first time the potential conflict between the complete suite of birds of conservation concern in Ireland that are associated with the variety of vulnerable habitats which have already been afforested or are likely to be afforested in the future and a manuscript has been produced for publication. Bird species vulnerable to afforestation, and those with an unfavourable conservation status in Ireland, were reviewed. The habitats where bird species of conservation concern were most likely to be found were chosen for new data collection two criteria; (1) relatively recent and projected afforestation trends within selected open habitats, (2) abundance of birds of conservation concern within selected habitats. Thus, four habitats (improved grassland/ intensively managed farmland, wet grassland, blanket bog and raised bog) were selected for investigation of the impact of forest proximity on different bird species. Ninety four study sites were selected across these habitat types. In order to determine whether species richness and abundance were affected by the presence of adjacent forest, paired field sites were selected in each of the vulnerable habitats, in the absence and the presence of adjacent forest. Surveys of bird communities were undertaken in each of the selected sites by experienced ornithologists and bird densities were calculated for recorded species at different proximities from forests. This information was used to identify the most appropriate ways to focus planting effort, in terms of block size and number and pre-planting habitat type. This information will allow the most important habitats for birds of conservation concern to be identified and a manuscript reporting the findings is being prepared. The literature review undertaken to inform this study identified a knowledge gap regarding stakeholder perceptions and goals for forests in Ireland. Thus, a survey of members of the public was undertaken to address this gap and further identify habitats likely to be afforested in the future. 1132 responses were received and analysis of this information yielded an additional manuscript, the findings of which will inform forest policy and practice. Furthermore this project set out to conduct a case study on the habitat use of Merlin in relation to forest habitats in Ireland. To this end, 22 years of data on Merlin breeding from across Ireland, collected by a number of individuals and research groups, have been collated and standardised and will be used to determine the role of forests in Merlin breeding and to identify potential risks of afforestation for this bird species.

Final Report:

Final Report (pdf 490Kb)