In a city where the mountains meet the sea, Dublin Bay conservation is always an important issue for our members. We were delighted when members of the An Óige Conservation Group and some of our hostel managers recently attended the Dublin Bay Biosphere conference which was held in University College Dublin on Wednesday the 26th of October 2016.
The keynote speaker of the Conference was professor Martin Price, Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth College, University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland, where he holds the UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Mountain Development. Professor Price outlined the governance and decision making structure of the UNESCO Biosphere at the international level. For those who don’t know, biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems that are highly biodiverse and of international value. They are managed to promote a sustainable relationship between human activity and the natural environment. Currently there are 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries and the Dublin Bay Biosphere (DBB) reserve is Ireland’s first.
UNESCO awards don’t come easy. Each reserve must meet a minimal set of criteria and adhere to a minimal set of conditions before being admitted to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). Awards are given out when when approached by national governments but they are managed at national and local community level.
The North Bull Island was designated a biosphere in 1981. The reserve was expanded in 2015 to include the whole of Dublin Bay. The Dublin Bay Biosphere (DBB) is managed by the Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership, which includes Dublin City Council, Dublin Port Company, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council and the National Parks & Wildlife Service. The partnership works with community groups, NGOs, local businesses and schools.
The three key objectives of the DBB are ;
- Environmental conservation.
- Education and research.
- Fostering a sustainable society and economy within the reserve.
Perhaps the weakness of the UNESCO Biosphere designation is that it is not backed us by any new regulations or legislation at local level. The above objectives are met by consensus among the partnership members within existing legislation.
The second speakers were Jeff Melnyk and Laurie Bennett of Within People – an international partnership that helps organisations find their purpose and grow. They showed how they are helping the world biosphere network develop its brand through applying the principles used to establish successful consumer brands. They emphasised that any brand should be Simple – Memorable – Easily Recognisable. They suggested using a simple and positive idea that people can identify with. They recommend getting beyond presenting facts and figures to telling inspiring powerful stories that relate who organisations are and what they stand for.
The final keynote presentation was given by Dr Olivia Crowe, Head of Conservation and Science at BirdWatch Ireland, on “Bird conservation and research in Dublin Bay Biosphere”. Dr. Crowe outlined how ongoing monitoring of the bird population in the biosphere is carried out. Migratory patterns are studied with birds being ringed and fitted with GPS transmitters. The bay is an important winter feeding ground for Brent and Barnicle geese coming in from north east of Canada and Greenland. Many species of waders also arrive in winter from as far a field as Siberia. In summer, Ireland’s Eye and the cliffs of Howth head are breeding sites for a variety of sea birds such as gulls, razorbill and guillemot, puffins, gannets, cormorants and shags. Roseate terns use Rockabill Island near Dalkey as a breeding site and monitoring of important breeding tern colonies within Dublin Port is continuing. The feeding and roosting patterns of oystercatcher, bar-tailed godwit and redshank on the North Bull island and other parts of the bay have also been studied. Dr. Crowe and her team use their collected data to to address conservation issues such as the effects of disturbance, habitat change or severe weather conditions.
Along with listening to the speakers our members also attended some worthwhile workshops such as the one by Dr. Shane Colgan of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) talked about the Green Enterprise Sheme. Since 2001, EPA has operated a grant scheme to encourage Irish companies and organisations to implement cleaner, greener work practices. The objective is to achieve a balance between economic and social activity and environmental protection. They provide grants of up to €6,000 to cover 75% of the cost of a project. EPA data can also be used to support an organisations application for any funding support application. EPA have produced a funding a handbook for community-led groups in conjunction with The Wheel.
Dean Eaton, the Environmental Awareness Officer for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council gave guidence on how and how not to make application for local authority grants. He advised contacting the local authorities environmental officer for advice prior to any aplication and to avoid multiple applications. Costings should be clear and honest. Applications should be well prepared and issues that are against the policy of the local authority won’t get support. Presently, local authorities are very keen to support any project that mitigates against climate change.
So, all in all, a worthwhile day out.
If you are interested in hearing more about what our Conservation Group gets up to, subscribe to our newsletter.