Ireland’s President, Michael D Higgins, will soon welcome a team of ecologists from Trinity to conduct a detailed, year-long “biodiversity audit” of Áras an Uachtaráin and its famous grounds.
The President asked the Office of Public Works (OPW, which manages the Phoenix Park) to commission this unique, green initiative and individuals from that organisation in turn reached out to the Trinity team.
Over the next 12 months, the team will quantify both habitat and species diversity on the 130-acre site – an area that contains both formal gardens, certified organic kitchen gardens, and areas that are managed for biodiversity. The iconic Phoenix Park deer are excluded from the Áras, making it a unique biological site within the Park.
Trinity biodiversity specialist, Professor Jane Stout, will lead the project with a team of taxonomic experts including Dr Ruth Kelly (plants); Dr Paul Dowding (fungi); Dr Stephanie Maher (insects); Dr Aoibheann Gaughran (mammals); Mr Cian White (birds and insects); and Mr Collie Ennis (reptiles and amphibians).
Professor Stout said:
It’s a great honour and a real privilege to lead this project and to work with such an incredible team. Urban nature is important for so many reasons, and the first step to managing it effectively is to conduct an audit to determine what is there. We’re all excited to see what lives on the site and to make recommendations for future biodiversity-friendly initiatives.
President Higgins has been interested in the protection of biodiversity for many years, and it was this issue that brought him to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
Speaking at the first National Biodiversity Conference in early 2019 he said that we faced “profound challenges” in terms of threats to our natural environment and that reversing biodiversity loss would require all of us to be leaders within our own spheres of influence. The biodiversity audit at the Áras confirms his leadership on this important issue.
Margaret Gormley, Chief Park Superintendent, OPW, added:
“This research, which will be made public at the end of the audit, will boost our knowledge and support our sustainable and environmentally friendly management practices now and in the future.”
In the meantime, people are encouraged to keep an eye on the Áras website for updates regarding the wonderful fauna and flora found on the site.