‘Ireland lost c.5,000 ha of hedgerows since 2006’
– National Forest Inventory, 2012
A hedgerow is a line of shrubs interspersed by trees along the edge of a road or field. The hedgerow serves as a barrier or boundary between two fields, or between an area of land and the road. The hedgerow also provides wind and sun shelter for animals and crops, aids drainage and helps to prevent soil erosion. There is considerable variety of shrubs and trees in hedgerows, and some include walls or banks Hawthorn is commonly used in Irish hedgerows and ditches. Hedgerows are generally manmade structures but can include ancient woodland remnants from early land clearance. The trees in Irish hedgerows are generally broad leaved with hawthorn being commonly used as it is fast-growing and its prickly branches make it difficult to breach.
Importance of Hedgerows
Hedgerows are nature’s motorways … they’re the means – an example of green infrastructure – by which wildlife in all its biodiversity moves throughout the land. Small mammals, insects, butterflies, plants and even birds use hedgerows to travel from one region to another. The hedgerow provides a green corridor along which to move, shelter from the elements, find safety from predators and a supply of food. So wherever hedgerows are removed or damaged, nature loses its means of travel, its source of sustenance, and becomes isolated and more vulnerable.
Hedgerows as Habitat
Primrose, a common flower growing in hedgesHedgerows are a habitat for many native plant and animals species. A well-managed hedgerow can safeguard the habitats contained therein. A wide variety of plant species will in turn support a wide variety of bird and animal life, including both large and small mammals.
Loss of Hedgerows
Regrettably, many hedgerows are disappearing under our noses as smaller fields are amalgamated to make bigger ones which can be managed more efficiently. Road widening and development also leads to the loss or diminishment of hedgerows. The result is that wildlife loses its ability to move through the countryside, and habitats become isolated and cannot be renewed so that they become weakened.
Hedgerows & Biodiversity
The fact that animals & birds depend upon hedgerows to travel and spread throughout a region explains how their loss is intimately linked to the loss of biodiversity which itself is under increasing threat from human activity and population pressure. And yet we depend upon a healthy biodiversity for our own human well being. We need to protect and safeguard these ecological corridors, and find ways to co-exist.
Limited Protection in Irish Law
Existing hedgerows need to be maintained and protected. In Ireland, the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000 protects hedgerows and section 46 of the Act updates Section 40 of the 1976 Act to provide an increased protection period for them. It reads: “It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy, during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.” and “It shall be an offence for any person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period mentioned [above].”
The below pictures show the hedgerow in Donabate along the Portrane Road before it was vandalised
For more information, check out this link about Natural Heritage on Fingal County Councils Development Plan.