The IDEAL-HNV project aims to describe the types of HNV farmland that are found in Ireland. To do this we will be sampling ~100 farms in seven areas that have been assessed as having high potential for the occurrence of HNV farms.
To date, one case study area has been selected, north County Leitrim. We piloted our field-sampling strategy there. Ten farmers agreed to participate in the survey. They allowed all the habitats on the farm to be surveyed and completed a short questionnaire.
The farms were an average of 42 ha in size (they ranged from 10 to 95 ha). The average stocking density of the surveyed farms was just under 1LU/ha (they ranged from 0.6 to 1.4 LU/ha). Sixteen semi-natural habitats were identified on these farms. Excluding field boundaries, there was an average of 6 semi-natural habitats covering an average of 50% of the area of these farms. These included habitats such as Dry Calcareous and Neutral Grassland, Wet Grassland and Wet Willow-Alder-Ash Woodland.
Semi-natural grasslands in County Leitrim
There was also a high diversity of field boundaries. Hedgerows were very common with earth banks, drainage ditches, stone walls and treelines also contributing to the biodiversity of these farms. There was an average of 230m of field boundaries per ha (excluding wire fences) on the farms surveys.
Field boundaries in County Leitrim
Photo credits: Caroline Sullivan