EPA launches research project on biodiversity and environmental change

Date released: May 04 2006

A novel research project, to provide necessary information for protecting the diversity of Ireland’s flora and fauna, was launched today by Mr Larry Stapleton, Director, EPA. The project, entitled BioChange, is led by Trinity College Dublin and funded by the EPA.  

BioChange will address emerging and important issues surrounding Irish biodiversity, focusing on the County Clare and Galway Bay area (including the Aran Islands).  The project will provide an Irish framework to address the most significant biodiversity policy target for Europe - halting the decline of biodiversity by 2010.  The aims of the project also include developing fundamental biodiversity research and biodiversity indicators.

Speaking at the launch Mr. Stapleton stated:  ‘Europe is unique in global terms because the diversity of its species is, to a large extent, dependent upon landscapes created by human influence - and Ireland, with such a high proportion of agricultural land and rapid growth in housing and infrastructure, exemplifies this situation.  The diversity of species in this country is intrinsically linked to how we manage any changes that occur in the way that we use both land and water.’

The full project title is “Biodiversity and environmental change - an integrated study encompassing a range of scales, taxa and habitats” (BioChange).  It will focus on pressures that might lead to environmental change such as: fragmentation and loss of habitats; impacts of non-native species; climate change; pollution and changes in the exploitation of natural resources.

The outputs of this fully collaborative research effort will be directly linked to supporting policy both regionally and nationally, in addition to producing novel high-quality biological and sociological data.

This is the first integrative, multi-disciplinary research framework to support national and local biodiversity policy in Ireland.  Eight institutions across Ireland are involved in the €1.6 million project, which includes 20 researchers, 4 post-doctoral researchers, 10 post-graduate students and a small number of short-term research assistants.

A number of working groups and desk studies will also be established to integrate current thinking/existing knowledge, and to identify priority areas for future biodiversity research funding. 

The Biochange Project

Under the Biochange project research will be carried out in the following areas:

  • Landscape Conservation – loss and fragmentation in a habitat mosaic;
  • Non-native species – impacts on biodiversity, strategies for management and predictions of future invasions;
  • Pollution as a driver of biodiversity change – impacts, indicators and long-term monitoring;
  • Natural resource exploitation and global change – the need for improved sustainable management to protect biodiversity;
  • Biodiversity politics – policy, planning and public understanding;
  • An expandable web-based inventory and keys to the flowering plants and seaweeds of Co. Clare and the Aran Islands;
  • Species distributions, past, present and future.

EPA research programme

Over the past ten years, the EPA research programme has supported research and development activities in a range of environmental areas. This work is carried out by researchers in universities, colleges, state research organisations, companies and by individuals. Currently, the annual EPA research budget is €7m and is administered through the Environmental Research, Technological Development and Innovation (ERTDI) Programme on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The EPA research programme currently funds approximately 400 projects ranging from short desk studies to large multi-annual capability development projects involving several organisations. Over 700 researchers have been involved to varying degrees in the programme including over 100 post-graduate scholarships and fellowships to support new researchers.