New Supporting Documents for Site-Specific Conservation Objectives

MKO ecologists routinely review the latest documents for designated sites in Ireland. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) recently published supporting documents for site-specific conservation objectives relating to 1) lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) and 2) the five Annex I lake habitats that are found in Ireland.

The overall objective is to achieve Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) for habitats listed in Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive and species listed in Annex II. Site-specific conservation objectives relate to individual Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and define the favourable conservation condition for the habitat or species, using a series of attributes and targets. The newly published supporting documents explain and provide context for conservation objectives, attributes and targets.

Lesser horseshoe bat

A total of 41 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) have been designated for the conservation of lesser horseshoe bat (EU species code 1303). Nine of these have also been selected for the Annex I habitat ‘caves not open to the public’ (EU Habitat code 8310). These sites are located along six west coast counties (Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Cork and Kerry). The conservation status for lesser horseshoe bat and caves not open to the public in Ireland is currently favourable.

The lesser horseshoe bat supporting document (NPWS, 2018) outlines attributes for lesser horseshoe bat and relate to population per roost and habitat for the species. Some targets are specific to the SAC, relating to the size and condition of the roosts for which the site is designated. However, other targets have consequences outside the boundaries of the SAC and relate to maintaining habitats and managing light pollution.

As the habitat ‘caves not open to the public’ is integrally linked to lesser horseshoe bat as part of the habitat for the species, separate conservation objectives have not been set for the habitat.

Annex I lake habitats

The Habitats Directive Annex I Lake Habitats (O’Connor, 2015) is a supporting document for the site-specific conservation objectives of the five Annex I lake habitats that are found in Ireland. The report provides working definitions of the five habitats, further information on the Article 17 reporting from 2013, along with supporting information for the site-specific conservation objectives.

The five Annex I habitats include Oligotrophic isoetid lake habitat (3110), Mixed Najas flexilis lake habitat (3130), Hard-water lake habitat (3140), Rich pondweed lake habitat (3150), Acid oligotrophic lake habitat (3160). Each lake habitat is described in terms of the typical vegetation communities that define it. The definitions provided in the report recognise significant overlap between habitats and the likely co-occurrence of two or more habitats in many lakes.

Currently, all five habitats have unfavourable conservation status with Ireland having a particular responsibility for the conservation of Hard-water lake habitat (3140) as it has some of the best examples of the habitat in the EU. Information presented in the report will form the basis for future Article 11 surveillance and Article 17 reporting and identify where further research is required.

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