Please note: Following input from detailed ecology surveys and community engagement in 2022, some project details have been changed. This will be reflected in updated management plans which have been presented at community engagement walks at the project sites and which we will share in more detail in 2023.
Concrete conservation actions to be carried out at Murvagh include:
C1 Collection and cultivation of 2130 * characteristic species of the habitat
C3 Elimination of senescent forest plantations and removal of isolated invasive trees, to improve habitat 2130*
C5 Habitat restoration 2130 * through the use of its characteristic species
C9 Protection measures against anthropogenic conditions in the habitat 2130 *
Ammophila arenaria and/or Carex arenaria) will be collected within the SAC for use in stabilizing bare sand after tree removal. This will allow a natural process of colonization by fixed dune species to occur. Tree cover in some parts of the coniferous plantation where works are planned is relatively sparse, and in these areas it is anticipated that the vegetation currently on the site will promote the regeneration of 2130* habitat.
Forestry activities are likely to include the felling and removal of trees (logs and branches), as well as the removal of isolated trees, both planted and naturally regenerated, from fixed dunes. An area of 7ha of coniferous plantation has been identified as suitable for logging, and removal of isolated trees will be carried out on another 10 ha by 2130*, thus restoring and improving the quality of the sand dunes. The specific location of the works within the plantation area will be decided on the basis of preparatory actions A. This will result in an increase of fixed dunes 2130* by 25.9% in relation to the current registered area, and a improvement in the condition of 37.0% of the site due to the removal of isolated trees. Stumps, cut as close to ground level as possible, will be preserved to minimize disturbance to the site as a whole, reducing the risk of windstorms and maximizing benefits to nature. At the limit of the SAC, some thinning will be carried out in the adjacent forest formations (4ha) to prevent blowing down by wind in the forest formations that have been exposed. This is a requirement for the safety of the users of the forest formations and the stability of the remaining trees. Opening up the tree canopy at the boundary between plantations and open dunes will also be beneficial to native soil flora and provide a more natural transition to plantation. Transition areas between dunes and forest plantations are important biodiversity resources, and species such as Pyrola rotundifolia ssp maritima are closely associated with these conditions in Ireland. As a result, there will be some minor forestry operations applied directly adjacent to the SAC, as well as within the SAC, in a buffer strip at least 50 m deep at its widest point. This strip will be incorporated into the SAC during the course of LIFE INSULAR to ensure that it is included in the protected area and incorporated into biodiversity management as part of the AfterLIFE plan.
Signage, clearly defined pedestrian routes, and temporary fencing will be used to manage access and prevent damage to the newly restored dunes from recreational use.
Monitoring and communication will take place as part of these actions:
D1 Monitoring of the impact of the project on island habitats
E1 Strategy for communication, awareness and public dissemination of the results of the project
Monitoring the results of the project will be a key part of the project and will make it possible to assess the impact of the actions on the state of conservation of 2130* in Murvagh. Communicating the results with local people and eNGOs will be a vital part of the community engagement aspect of the project and will improve the chances of long-term success. The project will seek to enhance benefits to the local community by providing information and funding opportunities under complementary schemes such as the Forest Service Neighborwood scheme. The habitat enhancement measures and management plan for the dune area will be incorporated into a Biodiversity Management Action Plan for COILLTE owned lands to ensure that the benefits over 2130* are maintained in the long term, after the completion of the LIFE project. The results of the monitoring and community engagement will inform the long-term management strategy for the site and help identify the most successful aspects of the project that can be applied elsewhere.
The forest management activities planned in this project will improve the condition of the 2130* dunes by 37.0% and will increase their area by 25.9% with respect to the area occupied by the habitat in the SAC. The area increase will provide additional resources to birds using the adjacent SPA, thus strengthening the integrity of the Natura 2000 network. The management recommendations for the dunes that will be developed as part of this project will be integrated into a Management Action Plan of Biodiversity developed by COILLTE, ensuring appropriate long-term management. There are very few opportunities to increase 2130* coverage in Ireland, and these habitats are under pressure nationally due to the vulnerability of insular areas. Inclusion of this site in the project offers the prospect of long-term improvement in the quality and extent of the 2130* dunes within Natura 2000 in Ireland. Therefore, it is a key site for the project.