The biodiversity crisis in the city

Foxes on the streets and bee-friendly meadows in city parks – it might look like Dublin’s wildlife is making a comeback. But problems remain, and there’s much more we can do

Local authorities, businesses and individuals have been addressing Dublin’s biodiversity crisis by creating conservation parks and walkways as well as increasing the number of “wild” gardens. 

However, Dubliners continue to stop plants and animals from thriving around us in a number of ways – from antisocial behaviour in parks to littering to prioritising car-parking over gardens. 

“Everyone used to have back and front gardens, but they are now being cemented for new driveways instead,” environmentalist Tina Ardaff Roche, from Mount Brown in Dublin 8, told The Liberty.  

In previous years, a garden could be used for people to grow their own vegetables and look after small farm animals like chickens. Front and back gardens gave the opportunity for people to have fresh food while also aiding biodiversity. 

These days, growing food at home is rare, and we often waste what is on sale: over 40% of food in supermarkets is wasted in Ireland, Roche said. In addition to this, excessive plastic wrapping puts an unnecessary strain on the environment.  

Biodiversity at TU Dublin Grangegorman – Image Molly O’Reilly

Wildlife will benefit if we are more conscious to reduce, recycle and not to litter.

There are other ways the public can combat the biodiversity crisis. One option is to plant native flowers, trees and shrubs if you can. By planting plants in the right place, you can provide birds and other small animals with habitats. These plants can also slow the spread of invasive plant species like Japanese knotweed.  

“I cannot stress enough the importance of planting Irish native plants. A tree does not have to be a big tree, it can be small – anything is good,” Roche said.

Some may argue that the trend toward wild gardens can be an eyesore, but they do not necessarily have to be overgrown; the grass can be trimmed without stripping its potential to aid biodiversity.  

Hedges and ivy along walls should also be trimmed carefully and not cut back fully as they flourish in the spring and summer, providing nesting places.  Avoid using pesticides and herbicides on plants as they can damage habitats.

‘Antisocial behaviour’ doesn’t also have to be anti-wildlife, Roche said. “When you are finished drinking, bring the cans with you, don’t litter cigarette butts.”  

Lighting fires near areas with plants can burn the roots or destroy habitats. If you are going to light a fire, it’s very important to be careful of the location.  

Letting your dog off its leash in a conservation park may result in them destroying habitats and harming wildlife. 

“There is a misconception that birds are only in trees, but many are on the ground and the dogs can harm them when they are let off the leash,” Roche said. 

“One of my biggest fears is for our children: if they grow up with a lack of biodiversity, they will never know what they are missing.”   

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