Biodiversity in Dublin City gardens

Austen-Associates-BiodiversityinDublinCityGardens

Biodiversity in Dublin City gardens

The practice undertook the first survey of biodiversity in private gardens for Dublin City Council in September 2007. This ecological study was carried out by questionnaire survey that was incorporated in a special brochure produced for the project by Austen Associates. A recent study found that 25% of the city’s landcover is accounted for by gardens.  This is a potentially great resource for protecting the city’s wildlife which includes animals like frogs, squirrels and birds and native Irish plants.

 

The results of the survey, which was distributed to over 5000 households and 300 schools, has been used by Dublin City Council to inform its work, as part of its overall Biodiversity Action Plan.  The Mooney show on RTE radio 1 took great interest in the project and Tim was interviewed by Aonghus McAnally.

 

A special biodiversity website was set up to accompany the survey and remains featured on the environment section of the dublin.ie website.  The project website describes what biodiversity is and how it is important to encourage greater biodiversity in to our gardens. More importantly, the website gives simple tips to explain how this can be done, provides an activities section for kids, and gives assistance with plant identification.

 

Download a pdf of the project questionnaire.

 

Responses to the questionnaire were received  from a cross-section of housing types, although, mainly terraced and semi-detached properties.

 

Recommendations

The survey reveals that the majority of gardens are small and because of this work will be required to educate and encourage those with small gardens as to how they can undertake measures to improve their garden biodiversity without a significant loss of their own functional space.

 

The responses to various questions show that more education is required to explain how to go about converting parts of the garden in to more wildlife friendly areas.  For example, reducing the amount of space given over to lawn grass, and the creation of safe, natural ponds in the garden.

 

Austen-Associates-Biodiverstiy-Peacock-butterfly-on-Abelia-grandifloraThe survey reveals that there are not enough parks in some parts of the City, with 15% of respondents living over a kilometre from the nearest park.  Furthermore, that the possibilities should be explored for increasing habitat connections between gardens, nearby green spaces and parks, which may improve the overall levels of biodiversity within the City.

 

The survey also reveals that more work needs to be done to both encourage people to plant more trees and to use specifically native species.  Alongside this, gardeners need to be educated as to how native plants can be introduced in to their planting schemes alongside some of their other traditional favourites.  Further assistance needs to be given to the public in determining exactly what native plant species are and how these are of benefit to biodiversity.  An ongoing education program needs to be put in place to explain the reasons for using native plants in the garden.

 

 In addition, the survey reveals that, as the main point of purchase for plants, garden centres should be supplying more information about growing native plants and they should be encouraged to provide information to the public about the known wildlife value of all plants being sold.

 

 As respondents have a particular liking for garden birds, it is recommended that an awareness campaign on biodiversity could use birds as a themed focus, such that improving the garden habitat for birds will have knock-on benefits for other species.

 

The survey reveals that more information is required on organic methods of gardening.

 

In general terms, more information on biodiversity needs to be given to the public through a variety of methods such as local authority literature and campaigns, via points of purchase such as garden centres, and through the wider media, namely newspapers and magazines, radio and television.  A strategy will need to be devised including education on the subject at schools level.

 

The survey recommends that further study and action be undertaken in the following areas:

 

Dublin City

  1. Dublin City Council should disseminate a follow up action list for householders to explain what native plants are, how they can be sourced, why they should be planted and how they can be integrated in to existing planting. At the same time provide further information to encourage wildlife gardening techniques that promote greater biodiversity also.
  2. Dublin City should commission a landscape ecology study to examine habitat links between gardens and adjoining green spaces and parks.
  3. Dublin City Council should implement habitat management plans in green spaces to encourage wildlife connectivity across the city (a series of wildlife havens with interconnected wildlife corridors including private gardens).
  4. Dublin City Council should incentivise the planting of native trees and shrubs through an expanded Tree Week program. Implement an annual Biodiversity Action Week. Implement themed awareness campaigns e.g. focusing on birds in the garden and/or converting small gardens in to wildlife havens.
  5. Dublin City Council should sponsor a detailed ecological survey of gardens across Dublin using scientific techniques to ascertain more information about all levels of wildlife in gardens.

Nationally

  1. A central body should be appointed to co-ordinate biodiversity surveys across Ireland and to promote wildlife gardening techniques as part of its remit.
  2. Legislation should be introduced to encourage the stocking of native plants in garden centres, grown by Irish plant nurseries.
  3. A system of plant labelling should be introduced by Bord Bia that identifies the wildlife value of plants.
  4. There should be ongoing media campaigns to encourage wildlife gardening emanating from all relevant bodies and authorities.

Other interesting websites for wildlife enthusiasts:

  • Visit www.irishwildflowers.ie for a comprehensive list of Irish wildflowers and their images
  • Visit the National Parks and Wildlife Service website for descriptions and images of a variety of different plant and animal species at www.npws.ie
  • Birdwatch Ireland for comprehensive details on Ireland’s bird life at www.birdwatchireland.ie
  • Irish Wildlife Trust provides further information on biodiversity and the different animal species found in Ireland at www.iwt.ie
  • Notice Nature is a detailed source of information on Ireland’s biodiversity and can be found at www.noticenature.ie