Awareness of biodiversity
Status of biodiversity
Threats to biodiversity
Measures that safeguard biodiversity
Measures that mainstream biodiversity
Benefits derived from biodiversity and ecosystem services
Impacts on biodiversity outside of Ireland
Knowledge of Irish biodiversity
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The EU Directive on the Conservation of Habitats, Flora and Fauna (92/43/EEC), more commonly known as ‘the Habitats Directive’, was adopted in 1992, came into force in 1994 and was transposed into Irish law in 1997. The main aim of the Habitats Directive is to contribute towards the conservation of biodiversity by requiring Member States to take measures to maintain or restore natural habitats and wild species listed on the Annexes to the Directive at a favourable conservation status. These annexes list habitats (Annex I) and species (Annexes II, IV and V) which are considered threatened in the EU territory.
Under Article 11 of the Directive, each member state is obliged to undertake surveillance of the conservation status of the natural habitats and species in the Annexes and under Article 17, to report to the European Commission every six years on their status and on the implementation of the measures taken under the Directive.
Areas where these habitats and species exist and are considered of high conservation value have been designated as Special Area of Conservation (SACs). An SAC may be comprised of a diversity of habitats, but only habitats or species listed as a Qualifying Interest are protected by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477 of 2011); these regulate any plans or projects that may negatively impact the habitat or species listed as a Qualifying Interest. Any damaging activity that impacts on the conservation status of a habitat is regulated under the Environmental Liability Regulations 2008 (S.I. No. 547 of 2008).
Ireland has submitted an assessment of conservation status of habitats in 2007 and 2013. In 2007, distribution maps for many habitats were derived using expert judgement assisted by geology, soils, land use mapping and Ordnance survey maps. Many large scale habitat surveys have been undertaken since 2007. Consequently, the 2013 maps are more refined and restricted to data with a high level of confidence that the habitat maps are accurate. The calculation of the national resource area per habitat are based on the availability of suitable spatial data and in some cases should be interpreted as minimum estimates. Given the methodological differences regarding habitat mapping between the two reporting periods, at present no rigorous assessment of change in area can be undertaken. Therefore, the 2013 data will be regarded as a baseline against which future assessments will be compared.
Excluding habitats that either still lack accurate assessments of their area (reefs) or are assessed using metric other than area (vegetated sea cliffs, sea caves), the total area of habitat listed under the EU Habitats Directive in Ireland is 55,785 km2, of which 7,456 km2 (13.4%) is lies within an SAC and 6,329 km2 (11.3%) lies within an SAC and is also listed as a Qualifying Interest. Marine and saltmarsh habitats, such as sand banks, estuaries and shallow inlets or bays, cover the largest area (47,062 km2) but have the lowest percentage of their area designated as an SAC (6.4%, 3,021 km2), the majority of which is listed as a Qualifying Interest (6.0%, 2,811 km2). In contrast, dune habitats, such as coastal grey dunes or machair grasslands, cover 112 km2 of which the majority is designated as an SAC (86.1%, 97 km2), but only 38.7% (43 km2) is listed as a Qualifying Interest. Since the 2013 Article 17 report, 11 new marine SACs have been designated and this indicator will be updated once the data becomes available.
More information on the Article 17 reports on the Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland can be found here:
This indicator tracks changes in area of habitats listed on the EU Habitats Directive currently outside designated areas. Maintaining and expanding designated areas to encompass previously unprotected Habitats Directive Annex I habitats will support the conservation of these habitats.