All Ireland Pollinator Plan 2021-2025 – by Eddie Hill
On Friday 26th March a new, even more ambitious, All-Ireland Pollinator Plan was launched, aiming to help all pollinators and our wider biodiversity.
Pollinators are declining because their need for food , shelter and safety is not being met due to decreasing forage and nesting areas. Numerous freely available resources have been developed for all sectors – from farmers to councils, transport authorities, communities, businesses, schools, sports clubs and gardeners to highlight simple evidence based actions which will help pollinators.
The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is voluntary, but provides an important framework to guide initiatives across the island. It is a shared plan of action. By working together, the plan aims to bring about a landscape where pollinators can survive and continue to provide us and future generations with their vital ecosystems.
The success of the first phase took everyone by surprise. Across all sectors, organisations, groups and individuals have engaged with the Plan and have taken actions to help. The seeds of change are everywhere, with patches of pollinator-friendly habitat being restored in almost every corner of the island. There are more native flowering hedgerows, providing a network of wildlife corridors.
Many people have embraced the ‘don’t mow, let it grow’ approach and species-rich meadows are reappearing in parks and on roadside verges, while tightly cut lawns are being replaced by wildlife lawns, dappled with clover and dandelions.
Towns and villages have adopted pollen and nectar-rich planting regimes. There are community orchards and pollinator-friendly railway stations, campuses, schools and gardens.
At the end of phase 1, all 81 actions contained in the first Plan have been completed. Pollinators are better off than they were five years ago, but they are still in difficulty and more is required. The new plan has more than doubled its original goals – with 186 actions to help biodiversity. This next phase aims to encourage the restoration of more land for pollinators. It wants to celebrate farmland biodiversity and improve awareness of how farmers can help.
Councils will be encouraged to manage their land in a way that better integrates people and biodiversity. New sectors, such as hospitals and nursing homes, will be helped to get involved.. There will be a focus on protecting rare species that are at risk of disappearing, like the Great Yellow Bumblebee. Everyone can help and more people will be encouraged to pledge their gardens for pollinators, creating pitstops for hungry bees right across our landscape.
The next phase will try to better explain how helping pollinators brings much wider benefits, particularly to our own health and wellbeing. It will cement Ireland’s position as a world leader, by establishing a ‘Pollinator Trail’ to identify and celebrate examples of restored pollinator habitat right across the island.
The new Plan will support beekeepers in keeping healthy honey bees but also stress that it is our wild bees that are in trouble and that we need to halt their decline and create a balanced system with a range of pollinator types. The All-Ireland Honeybee Strategy 2021–2025 is a standalone strategy but also slots into the AIPP as objective 4.
Oversight is provided by the Honeybee Strategy Steering Group . Honeybees are different from other pollinators in the Plan. They are predominantly farmed, represented by beekeeping organisations and overseen by legislation enacted by DAERA and DAFM.
The Plan will ultimately only be a success, if we can halt the declines in wild bees, hoverflies, and other insects on which we are so dependent. Importantly, the new Plan calls for a long-term monitoring scheme that will allow us to properly track those changes in our wild insects.
Prof Jane Stout, Professor in Botany at Trinity College Dublin, who co-chairs the group, believes: “Restoration of biodiversity across farmed, natural and urban landscapes is crucial for sustainable livelihoods and humanity’s well-being. Actions to protect pollinators across all these landscapes, as outlined in the Plan, can help restore other elements of biodiversity, and result in multiple benefits for nature and for people. For example, pollinators are important for maintaining plant populations that sequester carbon, and protect against flooding, and some pollinators help control pest populations and recycle waste. And ultimately, pollinators help to ensure the people of Ireland have healthy natural systems to enjoy, promoting our mental and physical health.”
For the second phase, the National Biodiversity Data Centre will continue to provide oversight and management of the implementation. The National Parks and Wildlife Service have committed to funding a full-time project officer to support the Plan. The Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine have also committed to funding a full-time project officer to support implementation of the farmland actions. Bord Bia have agreed to provide funding to support the growing network of business supporters and ensure the actions they take are evidence-based and effective.
With so many organisations voluntarily signing up to this new Plan, it signifies the importance of pollinating insects on the island of Ireland and acknowledges the role that we as beekeepers can contribute to making it a success.