The Changing Landscape

When it comes to preserving biodiversity, it’s not enough to talk just about species. What we have to do is to conserve the habitats that those species live in.

All the habitats of Ireland, added together, make up our landscape. It’s typical of landscapes, particularly in Europe, to go through phases of sudden and abrupt change and then stay much the same for long periods of time. I think my lifetime (I was born in 1946) coincides with one of those phases of sudden change in Ireland.


The past sixty years or so has seen the destruction of most of our midland raised bogs and a significant amount of our blanket bogs. It has seen other forms of wetland much reduced by land drainage. It has seen the reversal of a thousand years (possibly more) of deforestation. Most of this reversal has consisted of conifer plantations and, from a biodiversity point of view, a conifer plantation that is designed to be clear-felled is a very different thing to a natural broadleaf woodland.

Farmland has also changed with, amongst other things, a sharp decline in species-rich wildflower meadows at the expense of large swards of heavily fertilised perennial rye-grass. We have lost many of our wonderful ancient hedgerows and sand dune systems have disappeared under caravan parks and golf courses.

Most of the changes to our biodiversity that I have discussed here are related directly to these changes in our landscape. The future of our biodiversity is probably dependent as much on planners as on conservationists.

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