The South Dublin County Council Pollinator Action Plan 2021-2025 is based on the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan and sets out a range of actions that the Council has committed to implementing over the next five years. All actions are based on reversing the decline in bees in Ireland, our key pollinator.
More than half of Irelands bee species have undergone substantial declines in their numbers since the 1980’s. Two species have gone extinct, and one third of our 98 bee species are threatened with extinction. 6 species are critically endangered, 10 are endangered and 14 described as vulnerable.
Bees are declining because we have drastically reduced the areas where they can nest and the amount of food our landscape provides for them. The use of herbicides has also been very detrimental to their numbers. Wildflower Meadows are a key action to reverse this decline.
Long Flowering Meadows
The main action undertaken by the Council that benefits pollinators and biodiversity involves a restructuring of mowing patterns and timings with a one cut per annum grassland management regime. Currently, we manage over 160 hectares as natural/long flowering meadows.
A portion of the meadows are cut at the tail end of the flowering season. This mimics traditional hay meadow management techniques. The remaining meadows are left to overwinter and are cut later in the Spring. This allows nesting/overwintering habitats for many insects.
Cutting and collecting the meadow depletes the soil of nitrogen, allowing natural wildflowers to grow and establish during the following years. This is a carefully managed and sustainable way of increasing biodiversity while promoting wildflower habitats and providing food sources for pollinators. Ongoing botanical and insect surveys are part of SDCC’s natural meadow management and will guide future management practices.
In September 2022, South Dublin County Council, as part of the Green Flag scheme, won the prestigious 2022 / 2023 Pollinator Award for the Best Town Park in Ireland.
Short Flowering Meadows
2022 saw the beginning of a County wide trial on short flowering meadows (5 cuts per annum). The trial locations are set out throughout South Dublin County and will comprise of 8.81 ha in total.
Short flowing meadows are designed for public open space and more residential areas where long meadows aren’t suitable. This is an environmentally enhancing way of managing public open space and is an objective of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. The cutting and collecting programme will allow short flowering species to flower and set seed, while also aiming to reduce the overall competition from grass species as the ground is depleted from nitrogen.
This initiative has the potential to vastly expand the areas we manage for pollinators activities. If the trial is successful, residents’ associations can request areas within their estates be left for short meadows to promote pollinator food sources and habitats. This type of management is suitable to areas where residents would like to allow flowers such as dandelions to flower but where natural meadows would not be suitable or acceptable to residents.