Hedgerows are an important resource and a significant part of our heritage. They provide food and shelter for insects, birds and animals and form ecological corridors that allow wildlife to move between habitats. Hedgerows provide invaluable wider ecosystem services including carbon sequestration, flood protection, protection from soil erosion and preventing aquatic siltation. They are also an important cultural resource, many form part of townland boundaries or are remnants of ancient woodlands, others mark old routeways.
A survey of hedgerows in the north of County Westmeath is commencing in early July. It will examine sites previously recorded in a countywide survey undertaken in 2005 to obtain information on the extent and condition of these hedgerows and assess environmental trends for these habitats in the County. It is proposed to survey the hedgerows in the south of the County in 2024.
The key objective of the project is to gain an overview of hedgerows in Co. Westmeath in terms of extent and condition from a biodiversity, historical, and cultural perspective which will then inform any conservation priorities. Crucially this project aims to provide baseline information on hedgerow functionality and health.
A standardised Hedgerow Appraisal System (devised in 2013) will be used to assess each hedgerow sample area. This methodology assesses how historical and management criteria have determined the condition of each hedgerow. These include its construction, context, condition, and management. The methodology also outlines the floristic composition of the hedgerow including its constituent tree layer, scrub layer and ground flora layer. The sample size being used is 25 km2 and samples are selected through a semi-randomised process.
Surveys will be carried out by teams of two workers. “We use mobile technology to upload the data that is recorded in the field. This makes the task of gathering data much swifter. We score hedgerows under a variety of headings including historical significance, species diversity, structure, connectivity, and landscape significance”, says Billy Flynn Ecologist from Flynn Furney Environmental Consultants who have been appointed by Westmeath County Council to carry out the survey of hedgerows in Westmeath.
“The survey data will be useful now to provide an overview of Westmeath hedgerows but will also be invaluable baseline data against which any future surveys may be compared,” says Heritage Officer Melanie McQuade.
This project is supported by the National Parks & Wildlife Service under the National Biodiversity Action Plan (2017-2021) with support from Westmeath County Council.
Content Last Updated/Reviewed: 21/06/2023