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Plants and birds becoming extinct at rapid rate

MOST people are unaware of the huge scale of extinction affecting both animal and plant species in Ireland, a new survey has revealed.

With seven plant species and 18 birds facing imminent extinction here, the State Heritage Council survey shows that only one in six people have any idea what biodiversity -- all forms of life on earth -- means.

Michael Starrett, Heritage Council chief executive, warned that loss of biodiversity is already impacting Irish people, even if they do not realise this.

"Any visit to a fish counter over the past decade would inform people that changes in fish size and the selection available has changed enormously," he said at the launch of the report published yesterday.

The report reveals: l Seven plant species are classified as critically endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.

  • A further 11 species have already become extinct, while 50 other plant species are on the endangered list, facing a "very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future".
  • Another 70 are on the vulnerable list, facing extinction in the medium-term future.
  • And, according to the state heritage agency, 18 birds are listed as under threat as their breeding population has declined by more than 50pc in the past 25 years. These birds include the barn owl, hen harrier, skylark, lapwing and curlew.

The report found no increase in the past three years in awareness levels of biodiversity. "Worryingly, the research also found lower levels of engagement with biodiversity among the younger generation," it added.

Loss of habitats such as bogs and wetlands and the spread of invasive species were cited as the most significant threats to our biodiversity today.

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