Agriculture is the dominant use of land in Ireland, accounting for 4.4 million hectares or roughly two-thirds of the surface area of the country. Not surprisingly, agriculture plays very significant role with regard to influencing the presence, amount and distribution of habitats and species. However, it can have both negative and positive influences on Ireland’s natural heritage and ecosystem services. As society demands greater protection of biodiversity, greater onus has been placed on farmers. Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) for mandatory environmental protection are stitched into the terms and conditions pertaining to farmers’ direct payments. Financial supports are made available to farmers as an incentive to go above and beyond those SMRs and provide additional benefits that they are not otherwise obliged to do. These supports primarily come through Agri-Environment Schemes benefiting various habitats and species: for instance, the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS), Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS), Green Low-carbon Agri-environment Scheme (GLAS) and the National Parks & Wildlife Service Farm Plan Scheme.
The National Parks & Wildlife Service (and indeed other organisations and institutions) undertake scientific research to determine which habitats and species are in greatest need of conservation intervention, where these habitats and species are, and what can be done for them. The Agri-Ecology Unit of NPWS plays a pivotal role in such research, while also taking research forward into field trials, applied conservation effort and national policy.
Members of the Scientific Unit can be contacted by e-mail at Agri.firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (01) 888 3255.