Friday 2 December 2016

Some of Ireland's favourite birds are on brink of extinction - report

Published 08/11/2016 | 02:30

Large parts of Ireland's environment is in a worse state today than 20 years ago, a major report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says.

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Bird species, including the corncrake and the curlew, are almost extinct. There has been a "dramatic reduction" in the number of pristine rivers with high water quality, and traffic is causing serious air pollution.

The 'Ireland's Environment: An Assessment 2016' report also shows the average household now produces 20pc more waste than two decades ago, and says there is a need for "decisive leadership". While the overall state of the environment is "good", there are "serious underlying signals of concern".

Report co-editor Dr Jonathan Dernham said there was a need for integrated policies to protect the environment.

"We have not done well on nature protection, and we have lost some of our highest quality waters while at the same time reducing the number of seriously polluted waters," he said.

"If it was a school report card, it would be 'could do better'. We're winning and losing at the same time. The real challenge for the State is we're seeing that improvement is inconsistent and sporadic, as the joined-up policies are not there."

The distribution of several farmland birds, including the corncrake, is
The distribution of several farmland birds, including the corncrake, is "restricted" (Stock picture)

Challenges

Among the key challenges is climate change and there is a "pressing need" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Data from Nasa shows that average global temperature records continue to be broken, which highlights the "urgent need" to tackle emissions.

However, the EPA warned that Ireland would not meet its reduction targets, with agricultural emissions expected to grow by 6pc to 7pc, and transport by 10pc to 16pc, out to 2020.

The EPA also said that while the overall quality of the environment was "good", it had to be qualified.

"There are many challenges surrounding its protection both for now and into the future, along with more immediate local environmental issues such as air quality, water pollution, odours and noise.

"Many of these problems can be masked by national level assessments but can have severe impacts on the health and wellbeing of the people in individual communities and on the quality of the local environment."

The report also stated:

Air quality is better than most EU countries, but traffic and use of coal, turf and wood for home heating is causing localised problems. Levels of nitrogen dioxide in Dublin and Cork are close to upper limits.

There is still an "unacceptable" number of public drinking-water supplies on long-term boil water notices.

While the marine environment is relatively unpolluted, some 26pc of commercial fish stocks are overfished and marine litter is a growing issue. Raw sewage is still being discharged without treatment.

Water quality in lakes is deteriorating, and there has been "no improvement" in river water quality in six years.

The EPA said that land use planning was needed to ensure that growth was sustainable.

It said that raised bogs and species-rich grasslands were under threat, and that the range of birds - including the curlew, lapwing, common sandpiper, golden plover, merlin, ring ouzel, snipe and teal - has reduced.

The distribution of several farmland birds - including the corncrake, grey partridge and yellowhammer - is also "restricted". Some 43 species of Irish moths are threatened, and 37 of the 185 bird species which breed for winter in Ireland are considered endangered.

It adds there is "no evidence" that there will be any major reduction in pressures impacting on habitats and species over the next decade.

Irish Independent

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