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 Ards Forest Park include:
C3 Elimination of senescent forest plantations and removal of isolated invasive trees, to improve habitat 2130*
C9 Protection measures against anthropogenic conditions in the habitat 2130 *
Forest management activities will be carried out in an area of 6 ha in the Ards Forest Park, equivalent to an improvement/restoration of 2.33% of the total area of 2130* in the ZEC. Forestry activities at this site will include the removal of plantations on the fixed dunes (subject to soil type identification and ecological study), removal of invasive trees isolated from the fixed dunes, and clearing on the edges of habitat 2130* within the ZEC . Thinning will be required to prevent felling where trees are exposed to wind after removal of dune plantations. The fellings affect the structure and growth capacity of the 2130* habitat, and the risk of their occurrence increases over time as the plantation ages and, therefore, the size of the individual trees grows.
Stumps cut close to ground level will be retained in situ to minimize site disturbance and reduce the risk of catastrophic wind erosion, while maximizing benefits to nature.
We will use signage, clearly defined pedestrian routes, and temporary fencing to manage access and prevent damage to the newly restored dunes that may arise from recreational use.
Monitoring and communication will also 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.
The monitoring and results of the project will be a key part of the project and will allow to evaluate the impact of the works in the 2130* state in Ards. Communicating the results with local people and eNGOs will be a vital part of the community engagement aspect of the work and will improve the long-term likelihood of success of the 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.
As a result of the works at Ards, the negative impacts of isolated trees on the structure and functionality of the habitat will be eliminated and the threat of invasion by coniferous species on the 2130* habitat will be reduced. Management recommendations for the dune area will be developed as part of this project which will be integrated into a BAMP developed by COILLTE and will support proper long-term management. Inclusion of this site in the project offers the prospect of long-term improvement in the quality and extent of the 2130* fixed dunes at a site with unusual and interesting island features. The restoration of the dunes at Ards will make a significant contribution to the integrity of the ZEC Sheephaven.