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Forestry And Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements Site Assessment And Mitigation Measures

Ms Mary Wallace, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with responsibility for forestry and Mr. John Gormley, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government are pleased to announce the publication of the Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food website. This document has been agreed by both Departments and will ensure that forest operations such as afforestation, forest road construction, harvesting and forest planning are compatible with the protection of this species.

The freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera and Margaritifera durrovensis) is protected under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Wildlife Acts (1976, amended 2000). The species lives in rivers and streams and requires water of the highest quality. It is currently in serious decline throughout the island of Ireland and the rest of Europe and is regarded as possibly Ireland's most endangered animal species. Both sedimentation and nutrient enrichment from a variety of land uses and other activities have contributed significantly to this decline. The challenge in developing the Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements has been how best to marry the many benefits of forestry with the conservation of the species.

Minister of State Wallace advised that the Forest Service of her Department has developed this document resulting from the work of a Steering Group and Working Group and following public consultation, in order to assist in the protection and conservation of the freshwater pearl mussel and its habitat. The Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements will apply to all potentially impacting forest operations within the catchments of Freshwater Pearl Mussel populations in rivers designated candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSACs) for the species. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will review the list of relevant rivers annually and advise the Forest Service of any changes.

Minister of State Wallace has warmly welcomed the new Requirements, which, she said, reflected the fundamental principles of sustainable forest management, the cornerstone of forestry policy in Ireland. The Minister of State added "I would like to thank those who helped in drawing up the Requirements including the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, Coillte Teo., COFORD, Irish Farmers Association, Irish Timber Growers Association, Irish Forestry Industry Chain, the third level colleges, the respondents during the public consultation process and the expert staff of the Forest Service of my own Department".

The Requirements describe a range of measures intended to reduce any potential negative impacts on the species arising from forest operations. They complement all other Forest Service Guidelines, the Code of Best Forest Practice and other regulations. The implementation of the Requirements will be mandatory. A moratorium on clearfelling was agreed by both the Forest Service and Coillte in the catchments designated for the species. With the publication of these Requirements it is expected that decisions can now be made quickly in these cases.

Minister Gormley stated "The Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Requirements document is fully supportive of a catchment-based approach to the protection of the freshwater pearl mussel under the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive".

The full document can be downloaded at Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements (doc 903Kb) 

Note for Editors

Ireland is committed to the principles of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM). As the national regulatory body for forestry, the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food implements SFM through its environmental guidelines, the Code of Best Forest Practice - Ireland and its inspection and monitoring procedures.

The freshwater pearl mussel species i.e. Margaritifera margaritifera and Margaritifera durrovensis are protected under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Wildlife Acts (1976, amended 2000). Based on the most recent assessment Ireland has 46% of the EU freshwater pearl mussel individuals.

The species requires the most pristine water quality. It is currently in decline throughout the island of Ireland and the rest of Europe. Both sedimentation and nutrient enrichment from a variety of land uses have contributed to this decline.

Forest activities such as afforestation, harvesting and road construction are a potential source of sediment and nutrients (particularly phosphorus) to rivers. This is especially the case where forests are planted on peat or peaty soils. Consequently very sensitive management is required to minimise the potential impact on the freshwater pearl mussel.

The mitigation measures described in the Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements are tailored to specific site needs and characteristics, based on site assessments.

The Requirements have been developed using the latest available scientific knowledge about the species, its requirements and potential impacts from forestry operations. The Requirements are intended to minimise current impacts and seek to prevent any future detrimental impacts on freshwater pearl mussel from forests and associated activities. However, there are knowledge gaps. Consequently, monitoring and research are essential in order to establish the effectiveness of the measures detailed below. The Requirements will be reviewed based on their effectiveness following implementation, on monitoring results (chemical and biological) and on new research findings.

The main elements of the Requirements are:

  • Background information including details on the life cycle of freshwater pearl mussel.
  • Methodology to assess sites within the catchments of freshwater pearl mussel populations.
  • Appropriate mitigation measures for forest operations.
  • The current list of rivers designated as cSACs for Margaritifera margaritifera and Margaritifera durrovensis

There are 25 river systems designated as cSAC for the freshwater pearl mussel. While the cSAC boundary often runs along the river channel, activities occurring elsewhere within the catchments of these river systems and upstream of the freshwater pearl mussel population can impact on the freshwater pearl mussel, even if the activities are taking place outside the cSAC boundary.

The full document can be downloaded at Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Requirements (doc 903Kb) 

Date Released: 20 March 2008