Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Wildlife habitat threat warning

Michael Starrett, said young people are becoming less involved with biodiversity

Loss of unique habitats such as bogs and wetlands and the threat from invasive species are the most significant dangers to wildlife in Ireland, experts have warned.

The Heritage Council said that while almost half of people are aware of the term biodiversity, less than one in five people know that it means the variety of living things.

It also claimed plants and animals have an economic value and are worth at least 2.6 billion euro to agriculture, forestry, infrastructure development and climate change.

Michael Starrett, Heritage Council chief executive, warned younger people are becoming less involved in biodiversity, with only 14% of under 25s engaged in some way.

"The reality is that the true value is likely to be much higher if the benefits to human health were also included. But biodiversity is simply not an issue which can be ignored anymore, the time to act is now," Mr Starrett said.

Mr Starrett said any visit to a fish counter would show the extent of changes in biodiversity over the last ten years.

"People may not realise but loss of biodiversity is affecting us all today. Any visit to a fish counter over the past decade would inform people that fish size and the selection available has changed enormously," he said.

"The connections are not being made in the public mind between every day life and biodiversity.

"For many of our species it is already too late, but with the right intervention and care we can ensure that we protect our biodiversity for future generations."

Seven plants are on the critically endangered list at risk of extinction in the wild in Ireland. Eleven have already been lost, 50 others are on an endangered list and 70 others said to be vulnerable. Some 25 birds are on the red list - of high conservation concern - including the barn owl, hen harrier, sky lark and lap-wing.

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