/ 17 January 2007

Ireland’s economic boom threatens wildlife

The economic boom that has turned Ireland into the ”Celtic Tiger” is now threatening up to 150 species of animals and plants with extinction, a new government campaign warned recently.

The Notice Nature campaign said species included the red squirrel, several types of bats, the otter, the barn owl, the corncrake, the nightjar, the salmon, the mountain hare, a unique slug, insects and various plants and trees.

Notice Nature, a public-awareness campaign launched by Environment and Heritage Minister Dick Roche, said some species had been decimated in recent years and could face extinction if they are not actively protected.

There are 29 different bird species and 120 flowering plants in ”serious decline”, according to the country’s Heritage Service.

”One of the main threats to our biodiversity is loss of habitats, either through removal or degradation, and up to 150 species of plants and birds are now under threat of extinction,” Notice Nature said.

”Furthermore, recently we have seen the impact of invasive alien species, like Japanese Knotweed and the Zebra Mussel,” it said, adding that over exploitation and climate change have also hurt.

The new campaign aimed, at preserving the red-alert species will, call for collaboration between the ministry and the farming, tourism and the building and construction industry.

”I believe that this collaborative approach is entirely necessary and appropriate. Indeed it is the only way to move ahead given the importance of biodiversity to sustaining livelihoods across the economy” Roche said.

The prosperity and scale of development and infrastructure changes that have followed the economic boom have been unprecedented in Ireland, much like the South-East Asian Tiger economies.

”The biological diversity we see today is the result of billions of years of evolution,” according to Notice Nature.

”While we all welcome our modern thriving economy, we must acknowledge the pressure that increased transportation, construction, inappropriate agricultural practices, poorly managed afforestation and climate change have put on Ireland’s biodiversity.

The campaign says protecting the country’s wildlife and biodiversity is vital for the tourism industry as many visitors are attracted by Ireland’s scenery, animals and plants.

Economically, tourism is important to Ireland’s economy. Last year, 6,4-million tourists visited and the industry was worth $7,6-billion. — Sapa-AFP