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FIELD BOUNDARY HABITATS AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE AREA OF SEMI-NATURAL HABITATS ON LOWLAND FARMS IN EAST GALWAY, WESTERN IRELAND

Biology and Environment-Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy

Abstract

Sustainable agriculture and the provision of environmental public goods are key deliverables for European farming and food production. Farmland biodiversity, cultural landscapes, soil functionality and climate stability are among the environmental public goods provided through agriculture. Future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) direct payments are intended to be more targeted at the provision of these agricultural deliverables. Field boundaries are an example of such deliverables. They are widespread features that have both environmental and aesthetic functions in farmed landscapes. However, research on their variety, density and contribution to semi-natural habitat cover on farms in Ireland is lacking. This study investigates the diversity and density of all field boundary habitat types on 32 lowland farms in east County Galway, western Ireland. A total of 286km of field boundaries were surveyed across six study sites. Five types of field boundary habitats were recorded. The density of field boundaries on the farms studied was high and could have positive implications for delivery of environmental public goods and sustainable farming metrics. In more intensively farmed areas, field boundaries were the only remaining semi-natural habitat on some farms highlighting the need to retain, and improve the ecological quality, of these features. The condition of one field boundary type (hedgerows) was also investigated in further detail. While the density of field boundaries was high on many of the surveyed farms, we found that the hedgerows on these farms were not necessarily in good condition for wildlife.

Author(s): Sullivan, CA; Finn, JA; Gormally, MJ; Skeffington, MS

Journal: Biology and Environment-Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy

Year: 2013

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