The Hedgerow Appraisal System: Best Practise Guidance on Hedgerow Surveying, Data Collation, and Appraisal publication arose out of a Woodlands of Ireland project, the National Hedgerow Database in conjunction with the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland now Hedgerows Ireland. A Hedgerow sub-group within Woodlands of Ireland compiled and published the document in early 2013 with funding from The Heritage Council. The document outlines an agreed hedgerow survey methodology and data appraisal system. It is hoped future national and county hedgerow surveys will be encouraged to adopt the survey methodology and data assessment outlined to produce consistent and reproducible datasets which would be available from the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
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“Hedgerows are living structures which change over time and in response to management activities and changing land-use objectives. Given the financial costs and the limited number of skilled operators available to appropriately manage hedgerows, it is unrealistic to expect that the entire hedgerow network in the country can be maintained at optimum condition. In order to achieve optimum condition, periodic renewal of hedges through coppicing or laying should occur which extends their lifespan and maximises their multi-functional attributes. Therefore, conservation strategies need to prioritise individual hedgerows and hedgerow networks on the basis of their significance in terms of agricultural, ecological, environmental, heritage and landscape value. Hedgerow conservation initiatives should focus on measurable results, not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of the hedgerow qualities and attributes that impact on their value to agriculture, biodiversity, heritage and the wider landscape functions.
Hedgerow conservation policy in Ireland is embraced primarily through national legislation and incentives, especially agriculturally-related schemes. A number of County Councils also espouse hedgerow policy in County Development Plans. Nonetheless, hedgerow policy and legislation does not necessarily equate with protection and many hedgerows have been removed in recent years as a result of agricultural intensification, new road schemes and building developments. In addition, management is generally poor due to a lack of skills-based knowledge and resources. For convenience and cost-effectiveness, management often entails flailing which, if done without skill and due care, has a tendency to weaken the shrubs in the hedgerow. Therefore, any attempt to promote hedgerow conservation through management needs to be based on a systematic assessment of the current resource, a meaningful interpretation of the data collected and appropriate management.
To help achieve this objective, a Hedgerow Appraisal System (HAS) has been developed which has three core elements:
- Standard Recording Methodology
- Standard and Accessible National Database
- A Method for Data Appraisal”
Publication Date: Early 2013
Published by: Woodlands of Ireland with support from Hedgelaying Association of Ireland (Now Hedgerows Ireland) and funded by The Heritage Council
Authors: Neil Foulkes, Janice Fuller, Declan Little, Shawn McCourt, Paul Murphy