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  • Our forests and woodlands are sanctuaries for many of our wildlife.

  • In a world where there is increasing pressure on

  • and loss of species of our plant and animal kingdom

  • these places are becoming more and more important.

  • To catch a glimpse of a red squirrel on a woodland walk is a precious moment

  • because reds are shy and spend most of their time in the lofty canopy of trees.

  • Unlike its much larger American cousin, the grey squirrel,

  • which is much more obvious and not shy at all,

  • reds prefer to live in conifer trees but can be equally at home

  • in broadleaves like hazel woodlands or even parkland.

  • In the Fota Wildlife Park they have become quite used to people

  • and you'd have a much better chance of seeing one.

  • They love the red squirrels in Fota

  • and are very concerned about the findings of a recent survey.

  • Well the survey has just been completed,

  • it's been sponsored by COFORD.

  • We found that the grey, since the last survey was done in about the mid 1990's,

  • the grey has spread significantly in the country.

  • It now occupies over half the land area and has, we reckon now,

  • replaced the red in certainly Meath.

  • The red has become very, very rare in counties like

  • Westmeath, Kilkenny, Carlow, Louth

  • and this pattern may well be repeated

  • if nothing is done in the future to help protect the red.

  • Kerry and Cork, the greys are on the frontier there,

  • they're coming into Limerick, they're coming into North Cork.

  • It's a very ancient hazel woodlands down there,

  • red squirrels will be replaced very, very quickly.

  • So the people in Fota are right to be concerned

  • as their red squirrels may not be there for much longer.

  • The American grey squirrel was introduced about 100 years ago.

  • They have a broader appetite

  • but they also carry a virus which is deadly to the reds.

  • One of the benefits to the red squirels is the conifer plantations

  • that are growing up around us because this is the type of habitat

  • where the reds have a natural advantage over the greys.

  • Scots pine is one of their favourites and if you actually look on the ground,

  • if you're out on a walk on a Sunday,

  • maybe you might find little pine cones that have been stripped like that.

  • That's typical evidence that you have red squirrels.

  • The greys prefer broadleaf woodlands

  • where they've done tremendous damage already.

  • They can cause widespread destruction in these young plantations

  • and the Forest Service has put an awful lot of money

  • into planting young broadleaves in Ireland

  • and this stock does stand a high chance of just being written off by the grey squirrel.

  • And the greys also threaten our few remaining native woodlands.

  • The solution I suppose is habitat management for reds

  • they protect our coniferous plantations.

  • There would probably, inevitably, need to be some control done

  • of grey squirrels in the country.

  • We know from what happened in England

  • where reds are now virtually extinct

  • that if nothing is done to protect our red squirrels

  • they're doomed and have little hope to survive.

  • No action on our part will have grave consequences

  • for these beautiful little creatures.

  • Another endangered species who has taken to nesting

  • in the young forestry plantations is the hen harrier.

  • The hen harrier is a rare bird and we have only 140 pairs left in Ireland.

  • The male is grey with black wingtips, quite distinctive to see from a distance,

  • while the female is brown and larger than the male.

  • They live in the uplands and have taken to hiding their nests

  • into young forestry plantations.

  • The food being passed on from the male to the female on the nest

  • is sensational to watch.

  • They use these young plantations until the canopy closes.

  • So future forest management must ensure

  • that there's always enough young plantations.

  • If you were down in the woods today

  • you might come across more than you bargained for.

  • There are some truly exotic species out there.

  • I'm actually in the forest today fogging the canopy above us with this machine.

  • It spews out an insecticidal fog that rises through the canopy

  • and knocks all the insects down onto my collectors.

  • I collect them, bring them back to the lab and identify what's there.

  • The forest canopy has been described as the last great wilderness.

  • We know less about the forest canopy than the depths of the Earth's poles.

  • Yet we think that close to half of all the terrestrial species live up there.

  • For the first time in Ireland the canopy is being studied in a research project

  • PLANFORBIO funded by COFORD.

  • I'm looking at the canopy insects in a range of Irish forest types,

  • Sitka spruce plantations, plantations with canopy mixes

  • and also native woodlands,

  • to see if there is any differences between the forest types

  • in what lives in the canopy

  • and also to see if we can maximise biodiversity in our plantation forests.

  • What's special about up in the canopy?

  • Well it's never really been studied in Ireland before.

  • It's very anecdotal evidence we have, so just word of mouth, what's up there

  • and we really need to know what's in Irish forests.

  • They're a growing part of the landscape so we need to find out what's up there

  • so we can plan to manage forests better in the future

  • so more species can live there.

  • In a canopy like this, in my sample area alone, which is about 24 metres squared,

  • I'll get tens of thousands of insects from that canopy.

  • The types of insects you do get will be aphids and mites

  • because the aphids will tend to feed on the sap and the leaves themselves

  • then the mites can be predatory or herbivorous

  • and then you get other insects like spiders, beetles, flies

  • and harvest men which are related to spiders and are also predatory.

  • So there's a wide range and they all feed on each other and the plants

  • and it's very interconnected.

  • I have a parasitic wasp here and what they do is

  • lay their eggs in caterpillars and the eggs develop in the living caterpillar

  • and actually eat their way out.

  • Here's a caterpillar, they are very important as herbivores

  • and they can do a lot of damage to trees

  • but they also break down leaf matter and stuff like that.

  • Ladybird larvae: so ladybirds are very important

  • in keeping down the aphid populations.

  • The PLANFORBIO Research also investigates plant life in the canopy,

  • birds living in the forest and, in particular, the hen harrier.

  • They all occupy a niche in the forest ecosystem.

  • Knowing what species live there and how they work together

  • will help us to plan forests with biodiversity in mind.

  • So many animals depend on our forests,

  • colourful ones but also less eye-catching ones,

  • they all need a place to call home.

  • So we need to plan our forests in a way that will help them to thrive.

Our forests and woodlands are sanctuaries for many of our wildlife.

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B2 canopy forest grey squirrel ireland hen

Biodiversity in our Forests

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    阿多賓 posted on 2014/02/01
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