Minister Noonan announces €34m project to transform Ireland’s approach to biodiversity data

Minister for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, has today announced funding of €34 million for a new LIFE Strategic Nature Project– Ireland’s largest LIFE Nature Project.
  • New LIFE Strategic Nature Project will invest in new data systems to underpin biodiversity decision-making
  • Better information will support planning, funding and delivery for nature conservation and restoration
  • The project is co-ordinated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, co-funded by the EU and is part of the next generation of EU LIFE projects

Minister for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, has today announced funding of €34 million for a new LIFE Strategic Nature Project– Ireland’s largest LIFE Nature Project. Led by the NPWS and supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Coillte Nature, this ambitious nine-year project will bring biodiversity information from multiple sources together to enable enhanced decision-making and support better tracking of progress towards targets. It is expected to have a lasting impact on how we plan, fund and deliver action for nature across Ireland.

Minister Noonan said:

“It’s all very well setting ambitious targets for nature, but unless we have reliable information from a wide range of sources, we can’t know if we’re being effective. This exciting €34 million project will transform Ireland’s approach to biodiversity data and help us track progress towards key policy goals in a transparent, public-facing way. It will also support better decision-making for nature protection and restoration, and open up new opportunities for how we resource this work. Led by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department, this project promises to be a hugely positive initiative that will enhance our national capacity to deliver real impact for nature and – crucially – to demonstrate the value of that work.”

The project, which is part of the next generation of large-scale EU LIFE Strategic Nature Projects, will support nature restoration in three important ways:

  • It will provide a robust evidence base to inform nature conservation measures in Ireland through the development of a bespoke platform. For the first time, this platform will bring together data from a wide range of departments, state bodies and schemes, such as results-based payments schemes and measures delivered through the Common Agricultural Policy, data from other LIFE projects, European Innovation Partnerships, agri-environmental schemes, data on invasive species and other data sets. Over time it will generate public facing dashboards which will be maintained once the project ends.

  • It will help to identify gaps in conservation and restoration work in Ireland, supporting the delivery of on-the-ground action and the achievement of key nature objectives under national and European policies, such as the National Biodiversity Action Plan, the forthcoming Invasive Alien Species Management Plan and the national Nature Restoration Plan. It will inform further measures to advance the restoration of some of our most important habitats, such as peatlands and lagoons, over the lifetime of the project.

  • It will enhance Ireland’s capacity to secure funding for conservation and restoration through the establishment of a National Complementary Funding Unit.

Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pippa Hackett said:

“This funding of €34 million has the potential to take biodiversity policy in Ireland to the next level. Over the past number of years, we have implemented a number of results-based programmes through which farmers are paid for improvements in on-farm biodiversity, across EIPs, LIFE projects and now ACRES. The advisory and scoring work in these programmes is labour intensive, with huge amounts of really valuable data collected as part of that work. This nine-year project will allow us to make the most of those incredibly rich information stores, and use that data more effectively so that we can better understand trends, identify conservation priorities in an even more focussed way, and develop more targeted strategies and policies for protection and restoration.”

Niall Ó Donnchú, Director General of NPWS said:

“NPWS has significant experience of planning and managing LIFE Projects with partners and we look forward to bringing that experience to this new project. This new project will strengthen our partnerships, consolidate our learning and ensure that our restoration work is based on evidence of what works best for nature.”

Dr Ciarán Fallon, Director, Coillte Nature said

“We are delighted to be part of this successful funding application. This will allow Coillte Nature to undertake a 500-hectare blanket bog restoration project in the west of Ireland and develop learnings and techniques which can be applied across future blanket bog restoration programmes. This Strategic Nature Project will also promote information sharing and create synergies across the peatland restoration community in Ireland and create benefits which extend well beyond the restoration project site.”

LIFE Programme and Strategic Nature Projects (SNaPs)

The LIFE Programme is one of the main EU mechanisms for funding projects in the area of the environment and plays a significant role in the implementation of major EU legislation, such as the Habitats and Birds Directives. The EU LIFE Regulation 2021-27 introduced a new type of LIFE project, Strategic Nature Projects (SNaPs). SNaPs are the ‘next generation’ of LIFE Nature Integrated Projects, building on the successes of Integrated LIFE projects such as the LIFE Wild Atlantic Nature Project or Waters of LIFE project, and are larger in scale in terms of budget, ambition and potential impact.

NPWS/DHLGH and LIFE Projects

The NPWS is the coordinating beneficiary of three in-progress LIFE Nature and Biodiversity projects: LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature (€20.6m budget), Corncrake/Traonach LIFE (€5.9m) and LIFE on Machair (€7.4m). The NPWS are partners on four further LIFE projects and have coordinated other successful LIFE Nature projects in the past, such as Kerry LIFE, Burren LIFE and AranLIFE. DHLGH Water Division coordinates the Waters of LIFE project (€20.2m). The EU contribution to this project amounts to over €20m.

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