What is biodiversity and why it’s important?

Leitrim – a small and the least populated county in Ireland, but by no means less interesting. Due to its special geographic position on the Island, Leitrim is home to a wide range of ecosystem types. From peatlands and bogs, lakes and rivers, like Lough Allen and Shannon River, marginal agriculture land, to woodlands, uplands, and even the 5km of coastline, the county provides a unique mixture of different habitats.

 GEAI explored the importance of biodiversity with ecologist Seán Meehan, a consultant to Leitrim County Council, in a seminar on the 23rd of February. What exactly is biodiversity? Biodiversity is the variety of life in a given area, and a high level of it is important for local communities for a variety of reasons. Throughout our history, we have relied on nature and its riches for food and clean water; biodiversity is also an important aspect for developing local tourism and maintaining the well-being of a population. Not to mention that high biodiversity level helps battle one of the direst problems of 21st century – carbon emissions – as it helps to lock them in the ground.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of challenges to Leitrim’s biodiversity.

How we protect it!

Coniferous plantations are basically monoculture and have an impact on biodiversity as well as local communities. Needles from conifers acidify the soil and in turn adjacent streams, impacting on flora and fauna. Inappropriate hedgerow cutting is widespread and impacts on nature as hedgerows are essential in the life-web of local wildlife. Extensive land drain, mining and pollution may also result in a level of damage to biodiversity.

To protect biodiversity several legal attempts have been made by both the EU and the Government of Ireland. Leitrim County Council has worked on its Biodiversity Plan, which should be published in 2022-23 and will include the county’s strategy to protect and maintain levels of biodiversity. For now, any new industrial projects within or outside SACs (EU habitats Directives) or SAPs (birds and habitats regulations) that could have negative impacts require an appropriate assessment, while other activities may require consent from the Ministry of the Environment. At the moment, more than 10 per cent of all Leitrim’s land are considered to be Special Protected Areas.

It is maybe hard to grasp the idea of biodiversity and its potential impact on your life, but it is very important to maintain the delicate balance of Nature that surrounds us. Thanks to Seán Meehan for helping explore this topic.  

GEAI has been awarded funding by Community Foundation to carry out a biodiversity project in 2022. We look forward to collaboration between our local community and the project consultant to explore, record and protect the biodiversity found in the Leitrim Way. 

To read more about the Comty Biodiversity Plan, click here.

Written by: Ilya Linevich