Plan to protect 400,000km of Irish hedgerows launched

Database will allow people to record local hedges

Save the hedge: home to birds, bats, insects and small animals.

Save the hedge: home to birds, bats, insects and small animals.

 

A drive to protect our hedgerows has begun with the launch of a national hedgerow database which will allow people to record details about hedgerows in their areas.

There are about 382,000 kilometres of hedgerows around the State and they are “an incredible resource” according to Neil Foulkes of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland.

His organisation, along with Woodlands of Ireland, the Heritage Council, the National Biodiversity Data Centre and Ecological Landscape Design Consultants announced a package of measures today to preserve these hedgerows and build up a permanent record of them.

Dr Declan Little, project manager at Woodlands of Ireland said people should be aware of the importance of hedgerows for our environment and health. “We take our hedgerows for granted and are losing the ability to manage them to get the maximum benefits from them,” he said. As well as acting as natural boundaries for farmers, hedges support wildlife such as birds,bats, insects and small animals.

While some heritage hedgerows have strong links with native woodland that date back thousands of years, most of our hedges were planted in the last 300 years and are mainly made up of native trees, shrubs and flowers. Hawthorn can be found in 98 per cent of hedgerows but Mr Foulkes said it had a lifespan of about 250 years so it was approaching the end of its life. “We can keep these hedges alive with the appropriate management,” he said.

The hedgerow database and a hedgerow appraisal system are available at biodiversityireland.ie. General information on hedgerows across the country is available at heritagecouncil.ie. A new website ecolandscapes.ie is also being launched to help people create new woodland and other habitats using native Irish trees, shrubs and plants.