For Peat’s Sake

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL AND WHY MUST WE STOP CUTTING IT?

The recent move by Eamon Ryan to ban the harvesting of peat in Ireland caused an uproar. Peat has been used for heating and cooking in Ireland for centuries. Turbary rights, which are part of Ireland’s intangible cultural heritage, have meant that people living in homesteads in rural areas have inherited a right to cut and remove turf from specific plots of peatland linked to these dwelling houses. In more recent times, peat has been used commercially in horticulture and former peatlands have been used for afforestation and in agriculture. But, when we look at peat extraction, and the damage it is doing to what is left of our wetlands, against the backdrop of climate change, biodiversity loss and carbon sequestration, it is inescapably evident that extraction practices cannot continue. The growing impact of smoky fuels on human health also cannot be ignored.

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World Curlew Day

SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THE CURLEW TODAY

The Curlew is a shorebird and is easily recognised by its long curving bill. As  Ireland’s largest wader that is famous for its evocative call, the species is also distinguished by long legs, a bulky grey-brown body with dark streaks, and a long neck.

The long, curved beak is perfectly adapted for probing the wetlands, bogs, salt marshes and other watery terrain for food. The curlew feeds mostly on invertebrates and on insects, earthworms and larvae when wintering inland. According to the http://www.birdwatch.ie, numbers and range of the Curlew have declined substantially in recent decades and it is currently on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is likely that increased afforestation and agricultural intensification are two factors which have contributed to its decline. World Curlew Day raises awareness of curlews everywhere.

There are eight species of curlew worldwide and two are assumed extinct. The Eskimo and the Slender-Billed have not been seen for decades. Out of the remaining six species, there are three that are at risk of extinction – the Eurasian, the Bristle-thighed and the Far Eastern.

Photo: Fearghal Duffy

Wildlife Crime

A SEVERE THREAT TO BIODIVERSITY AT A CRITICAL TIME

In recent weeks in County Monaghan, there have been reports of a number of wildlife crimes being committed – examples include the dredging of stretches of river where there are nesting birds, spawning fish and otters have been seen, and the cutting/removal of non-obscuring hedgerows with mature trees. The public is advised to report wildlife crimes to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) but the organisation is in disarray and County Monaghan has not been allocated a Wildlife Ranger. With no straightforward and immediate way to bring perpetrators to justice, they are currently having the last laugh at the expense of our wildlife. The biodiversity crisis is at a critical point and this cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.

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Biodiversity Loss

THE LIBRARY OF OUR LIVING PLANET IS BURNING DOWN

In this article, John Gibbons discusses the biodiversity crisis that is currently unfolding as species after species is lost to extinction due to global warming. Based in Dublin, John has been writing and speaking about environmental and climate-related issues for the last decade and a half. He regularly contributes to Today FM, the Guardian, the Business Post, is the person behind the http://www.climatechange.ie website and maintains a blog at http://www.thinkorswim.ie.

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Invasive Alpine Newt found in Ireland

Scientists have found an invasive species of alpine newt in three counties in Ireland. The amphibian has been found in five different locations in Co Offaly, Co Tipperary and Co Down. The alpine newt has the potential to have a detrimental impact on local biodiversity by acting as competition to native species, and by transmitting a disease called chytrid to native amphibian species such as the Common Frog, Smooth Newt and Natterjack toad. Chytrid has driven many species of species to extinction in the tropics.

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TM trip to Lough Muckno March 2022

Members of Transition Monaghan took a trip to Lough Muckno to hear from “Friends of Lough Muckno” who shared their concerns about Monaghan County Councils Vision for developing the area. The Vision created by external consultants would result in a huge impact on the landscape and risk damage to already weakened habitats and water quality.

A proposed enormous development threatens biodiversity at Lough Muckno
Liam Murtagh addresses the group and explaining the likely impacts of the “Vision”
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Rossmore Park

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW IT?

Renewable power, hidden lakes and tropical fruit! Many readers will be familiar with the fantastic playground, wooden giants and scenic walkways to be discovered in Rossmore Park. However, there’s even more to learn about this historic landscape if you have a closer look. Exploring and enjoying our own localities is an important aspect of the journey towards environmental sustainability: once we understand and are aware of what’s around us, we are more inclined to protect and preserve it. As an added bonus, you might be able to motivate the kids to go exploring (beyond the playground) if you promise hot chocolate to whoever can find the most points of interest, of which there are many. Dermot McNally takes us on a tour.

Image taken from Monaghan Tourism website
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BirdWatch Ireland Flies On

OFFERING A WIDE RANGE OF CONSERVATION ACTIVITIES

BirdWatch Ireland is the largest independent conservation organisation in Ireland. Established in 1968, this registered charity has in excess of 15,000 members and supporters, as well as a local network of over 30 branches nationwide. If you become a member of BirdWatch Ireland, you’ll receive a glossy quarterly magazine and invites to conservation events all over Ireland. Family membership includes a smaller magazine that’s dedicated to encouraging children to get involved in learning and appreciating nature. Despite the funding challenges posed by Covid, BirdWatch Ireland continues its mission, believing that their work is more vital than ever. This week Dermot McNally takes a look at some of the work going on at BirdWatch Ireland. All images courtesy of BirdWatch Ireland.

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Magnetoreception

USING MAGNETIC FIELDS FOR ORIENTATION

Magnetoreception is a sense which allows organisms to detect magnetic fields and use them to align themselves. This sensory system is used by a range of animals for orientation and navigation. The idea that animals perceive earth’s magnetic field was once dismissed as impossible by physicists and biologists – they argued that it is much too weak for an organism to detect and there are no biological mechanisms capable of converting magnetic-field information into electrical signals used by the nervous system. Over time, however, evidence showed that animals can perceive magnetic fields. It is now clear that many species utilise information in earth’s magnetic field to guide their movements over distances both large and small. What has remained mysterious is exactly how they do this.

South African Quantum Physicists, Betony Adams and Francesco Petruccione, share some current theories, including how birds use magnetoreception to navigate during long-distance migration. This article first appeared in ‘Quest: Science for South Africa’ in January 2022.

A group of Mute and Whooper Swans photographed in the Ballybay Wetlands. Whooper Swans (Eala Ghlórach) are migratory visitors to Ireland from Iceland, where they nest during the summer months.
Photo credit: Fearghal Duffy.
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The Afterlife of Trees

THE TREE MAY BE DEAD BUT ITS WOOD STILL SUPPORTS LIFE

“Dead wood provides one of the two or three greatest resources for animal species in a natural forest ecosystem,” says Charles Elton in ‘The Pattern of Animal Communities’. Although it is quite often removed in an effort to keep things tidy and make space for living trees, dead wood is actually a vital element in woodland ecosystems. Wood decomposition is one of a woodland’s essential recycling processes and a natural part of every tree’s lifecycle. Dead and decaying wood also provides a nutrient-rich habitat for fungi, a nursery for beetle larvae and a larder for insectivorous birds and other animals. Incredibly, forests worldwide produce and decompose 150 billion tonnes of wood every year! This article is adapted from an article by the Woodland Trust that can be found on their website (www.woodlandtrust.co.uk).

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