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A new project is saving the unique landscape of the Burren

The Burren LIFE Project just won an EU LIFE nature award.

Image: Shutterstock/aaabbbccc

A PROJECT TO ensure the protection of the unique biodiversity of the Burren has won an EU LIFE nature award.

The long tradition of farming in the Burren, which began over 6,000 years ago, has ensured that large areas of limestone pavements have remained free of scrub, creating a dramatic landscape.

The Burren LIFE Project (BLP) is working to ensure that the tradition continues into the future and that diverse landscape of the Burren will be projected for generations to come.

LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 4306 projects.

The project was successful in the nature and biodiversity category.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed congratulated the BLP on its success.

“I am delighted for the Burren project to receive this recognition and it is a huge achievement for an Irish project to win one of these prestigious awards,” Creed said.

My Department, through our Rural Development Programmes has supported appropriate farming  in the Burren region for some time and the current Burren scheme is central to meeting our common objectives of conserving the unique heritage, environment and communities of the Burren.

Degrading landscape

The Burren is home to limestone pavements, orchid-rich grasslands, petrifying springs, turloughs and cladium fens.

In spite of the long tradition of agriculture in the Burren, recent years have seen a withdrawal, restructuring and reduction of farming activity in the area.

Under-grazing, abandonment and the loss of land management traditions has led to the degradation of the Burren.

The BLP aimed to develop a new model for the sustainable agricultural management of the priority habitats of the Burren.

Initially, the BLP chose 20 pilot farms that were representative of the diversity in the Burren’s agriculture.

Individually tailored management plans were drawn up for each of the farms. This was done by collecting a baseline of agricultural and environmental data, and extensive consultation between the project team and the farmers.

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This process resulted in a series of trialled, costed management actions that form the basis of the new model for the sustainable agricultural management.

There are currently 320 farmers in the programme and a third tranche will invite applications before the end of 2017.

The overall target for the new BLP is to attract around 450 farmers into the scheme.

“This Burren project is an example of innovative locally-led projects under our Rural Development Programme which factor in local characteristics and ensure that agricultural activity is undertaken with regard to the local heritage and environmental priorities,” Creed said.

The project identified and provided solutions to a number of key issues:

  • For the issue of housing livestock over winter, the project extended the winter grazing on traditional winterages by 25%.
  • A special supplementary feed was formulated, in a bid to encourage farmers to cut down on the use of silage.
  • The project improved water facilities by installing nose pumps and tanks on 18 farms including 26 new troughs and pumps.
  • The BLP restored 15,000 metres of internal stone walls using local labour.
  • Scrub encroachment reduces biodiversity. To address this, the BLP cleared scrub from 100 hectares of priority habitats.

A total of 15 projects were selected as finalists for EU LIFE nature awards by an expert jury, who looked at their long-term sustainability, communication potential and broader impact on a national, European or global level.

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