The role of biodiversity in an Environmental Management System:
Managing the environment and improving sustainability isn’t only about controlling negative aspects, such as waste and emissions. The site can contribute positively to the environment by improving it’s sustainability as a habitat, reducing the use of harmful chemicals and promoting the growth of carbon sequestering trees, plants and grasses. This can be achieved by the inclusion of a biodiversity plan in the organisation’s Environmental Management System.
Planning for improved biodiversity for your site can help with a number of environmental and sustainability goals. Creating a more bio-diverse environment can contribute to:
- Increasing the level of carbon capture on site
- Providing a sustainable environment for bees and other insects
- Reducing the requirement for herbicides and other harmful chemicals
- Protecting endangered species, including flora and fauna
- Increasing the proportion of native plants and trees growing on site
- Reducing landscaping costs
- Reducing the use of vehicles and equipment on site
- Providing areas of interest for visitors and neighbours
Environmental Management System objectives:
Biodiversity objectives and targets may be linked to specific, quantifiable improvements. These may include:
- Carbon capture:
The use of land to plant and manage trees, plants and grasses reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. The average rate of C sequestration in 10 to 50 year old stands was estimated to be between 4 and 8 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year (t C ha-1 yr-1) (Ref. Carbon Sequestration and Irish Forest Ecosystems Edited by Kevin G. Black and Edward P. Farrell 2006). Grasslands also sequester carbon and have the added benefit of increasing the quality of the soil (soils with high C generally have better soil structure, water holding capacity and provide more nutrients).
- Providing sustainable habitats:
Meadows which are allowed to grow and include wild flowers and other native plants will provide a natural habitat for insects, birds and animals.
- Avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides
Avoiding the use of hazardous substances will reduce the chemical burden on the land and within flora and fauna. Pesticides used to kill rats and mice may be eaten by birds of prey and cause fatalities in the raptor population, which is endangered in many cases. Pesticides may be replaced by traps and an alarm system to notify a pest control company.
- Growing native plants, trees and grasses:
A biodiversity plan should include the planting of native trees, for example native species of fruit trees. The following is a list of native Irish trees, however as with all aspects of the biodiversity plan, specialist advice should be sought:
- Bird Cherry: hedge, Individual tree
- Crab Apple: hedge or open area
- Dog Rose: climbs, hedge
- Elder: invasive, open areas
- Guelder Rose: hedge
- Hawthorn: open areas, hedge
- Hazel: hedge
- Holly: hedge, open areas
- Honeysuckle: climbs, open areas
- Irish yew
- Ivy climbs
- Pedunculate Oak: large areas only
- Rowan: hedge or lone tree
- Scots Pine: open areas
- Sessile Oak: large areas only
- Spindle hedge
- Wild Cherry
- Willows: invasive, keep away from buildings or services
Landscaping (including grass and hedge cutting) is expensive and time consuming and requires the presence of vehicles and equipment on site. This can be greatly reduced by allowing a significant proportion of the site to go uncut for much of the year, while creating pathways and borders to allow movement, and open spaces to deter pests from crossing to buildings. The greatest biodiversity value is gained from grassland that contains wild flowers and is left uncut through the spring and summer.
- Pegasus legal register – Habitats and Ecosystems
- ISO 14001: 2015: Clause 6 Planning: Objectives, targets and plans
- National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021
Ireland’s Vision for Biodiversity: That biodiversity and ecosystems in Ireland are conserved and restored, delivering benefits essential for all sectors of society and that Ireland contributes to efforts to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems in the EU and globally.