Biodiversity Factsheet

Irish Version of Site
This is the Biodiversity part of the Factsheet given out on Walled Towns Day 21/08/2011.

The Athenry Tidy Towns group are working under the Galway County Biodiversity Action Plan 2008 - 2013 ( ). The aim of this plan is to promote, protect and enhance the biodiversity of the county for the benefit of both the people of Galway and our natural heritage. Athenry Tidy Towns is currently developing a 3 year Biodiversity Plan for the Athenry area in cooperation with a number of other local groups.

What is Biodiversity? Biodiversity describes the variety of life on Earth and the ways in which living things interact with each other and the world around them. Biodiversity is another word for nature or the natural world and includes people, animals, plants and microbes as well as places in which they live (habitats). It is everything, or simply the nature all around us.

What can you do to improve Biodiversity? The best way to encourage biodiversity is to grow trees and plants which are native to your area and which will be the ones most likely to provide the best food and shelter for native animals. A native Irish Oak tree can provide food for over 370 different types of insects, where a Chestnut tree (native to Mediteranean countries) will only support 9 insects in this country. We have some beautiful native trees which will bring a huge amount of wildlife into our areas. We have included a number of websites at the end that will help you in deciding which plants and trees are suitable for planting in your area. Also when planting flowers try and plant single flowers where insects can easily get in to the nectar rather than doubles. Most annual bedding plants (for example Pelargoniums, Begonias and Busy Lizzies) have no nectar in the flowers for bees or other wildlife - you might as well plant plastic flowers in your garden.

The widespread use of insecticides everywhere is having a profound effect on biodiversity. Bee populations are getting to a critical situation, and they are the main pollinator providing us with the majority of our food. There are ways to reduce your use of insecticides. Many of the pests in our gardens have natural predators, which we need to encourage into our gardens. For the rose growers ladybirds are your best friend and we can encourage them into our gardens by cutting up a few bamboo poles into 30cm lenghts and just leave them on the ground near the roses, where they will soon make a home in the holes of the bamboo. Also leave some split logs in your garden to provide homes to the many beetles that live here and are great pest controllers. A few upturned flower pots stuffed with dead leaves is as simple as it can get to provide a habitat for insects and other small wildlife or you can create some wildlife towers using a few pallets stuffed with some old bricks with holes in them, some logs with partially drilled holes of various sizes, leaves, straw and basically any old debris that you find around the garden. Build a loose pile of broken branches and logs in a shaded area of the garden (behind the shed is always a good spot) and put the leaves you rake in Autumn over it. This will provide shelter for hedgehogs, frogs and beetles (a loose pile of stones will do for beetles also) and hedgehogs are a much better way of fighting slugs than pellets.

We all like our gardens to be a neat and tidy, but if we can leave a few small areas to go wild we will greatly encourage wildlife into it. If you leave a patch of maybe a couple of yards around some area of your lawn and don't mow it all summer you will after a couple of years have a natural wildflower patch which is hugely beneficial. Strim it in May and again in October, leaving the cuttings on the ground for a week in October before collecting and shaking to release any seeds in them, and you will soon find that the native wild flowers native to your area will thrive. Many of the wildflower seed mixes that are available in shops are actually British mixes and while they will have many of our natives they will also contain non-native plants. Increased insect life in your garden will mean a lot more birds visiting (Also good pest controllers).

Butterflies - Put some large rocks in a part of your garden that gets early morning sun to encourage butterflies to visit. They need to be warmed by the sun to be active and will quickly learn where warm rocks are. Buddleia, while not a native plant, is great for encouraging butterflies to a garden. Leave some nettles and thistles to grow in hidden areas of the garden as they form a huge part of many of our butterflies lifecycle. Many ornamental non native garden plants are also beneficial to insects and birds, but are best suited to a garden setting and not in wild.

Compost Tea – This is a cheap and extremely effective fertilizer. You will need an aeration pump (eg from an aquarium) and a 5 gallon bin with a lid. For aeration to occur we need hundreds of little air bubbles,so we need an air stone at the end of the pipe or else we need a piece of pipe with a lot of small holes in it. If using tap water aerate for three hours using the pump. You can use clean rainwater that has no green in it or on walls of its container. Put 6 tablespoons of mollasses(or honey) into the water, to feed the bacteria we will grow. In a bucket mix roughly two pints of 1/3 compost from your compost heap, 1/3 top soil and 1/3 manure (you could add worm casts if you have a wormery) and add this to the 5 gallons of water. This provides the natural bacteria that are growing in them and which we are want to multiply. We then need to aerate the water for 3 days. After 3 days use the Compost tea to water your vegtables or flowers. Very quickly you will see the results. The high microbe population stimulates the roots into stronger action. Also the billions of small microbes provide a rich food scource to the plants as they die in their short lifecycle. Too much sugar in the mix can cause fermentation and this will damage plants, so don't overdo the mollasses. If the mix stinks, it has probably run out of sugar and only bad microbes will have survived so do not use on your plants. Does this work? John Evans, a Cork man living in Canada, that came up with the recipe holds 8 world records for different vegtables.

Interesting Websites

Trees and Shrubs -

Best Plants for animals, birds and insects  -

Irish Wild Flowers -

Native Irish Seeds -

Heritage Council  -

Galway County Biodiversity Project -

Bee Conservation  -

Irish Wildlife Trust  -

National Parks and Wildlife Sevices -

Conserving and Enhancing Wildlife in Towns and Villages (A guide for Local Community Groups) -

Notice Nature -

Birdwatch Ireland -

Crann Releafing Ireland -