A Rapid Assessment Framework for Irish Habitats: A Case Study of Machair Habitat Quality

Thomas Gorman, Gesche Kindermann, Terry Morley

Abstract


Existing habitat condition assessments in Ireland lack a standardised, quantitative methodology and are often beyond the time constraints of monitoring staff. Therefore, there is a need to develop a framework that can rapidly assess habitats and provide a benchmark against which change can be measured. We reviewed existing national and international habitat assessments to develop a new rapid habitat assessment framework specific to Ireland. This framework uses 22 variables encompassing: (i) a pre-survey that considers the site within the context of the landscape; (ii) a structured field survey to measure physical and biological variables; and (iii) a site overview that considers site management variables to generate a quantitative site score. We tested our framework using Irish machair as a case study due to it being particularly vulnerable to rapid changes from both anthropogenic and climatic sources. Our framework scores matched 70% of the current three-tiered ‘traffic light’ designations established in the Habitats Directive and were within expected ranges. Our approach establishes a quantitative score that creates a benchmark against which we can measure future change and the identification of specific drivers of habitat change. The framework is a practical response to the lack of a unified approach to assessing and reporting habitat condition and will help Ireland meet monitoring requirements and determine the effect(s) of management/conservation efforts.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2014/igj.v51i2.1372

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:irg:ie:0000-igj.v51i2.13721

URN (PDF): http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:irg:ie:0000-igj.v51i2.1372.g11321

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