A survey to assess the woodlands and associated semi-natural habitats at Rathcoole, Co. Dublin

An ecological survey was carried out to investigate the habitats present in an area of semi-natural vegetation that has existed without significant human intervention for the past 30
years at Rathcoole, Co. Dublin and to evaluate their importance on a local and national
scale. Previous surveys had found that a large and significant area of the Priority Annex I
habitat 91E0 Alluvial woodland is present, a habitat which Ireland has an obligation to
protect under the EU Habitats Directive. Areas of two other rare Annex I habitats, 6510
Lowland hay meadow and 7220 Petrifying springs, were also identified as present by previous surveys.

The presence of all three Annex I habitats was confirmed by this survey,
occurring as part of a rich mosaic of natural habitats. The largest area of habitat present,
covering an area of 12.8ha, is alluvial woodland, which was assessed using standard
monitoring methodology, and was found to correspond fully to the Annex I habitat and to
be in good condition. This is an uncommon habitat in Co. Dublin, and in Ireland as a whole,
so this site is highly important for this habitat, in both a local and broader context. In
addition, an area of species-rich Lowland hay meadow was found to correspond to Annex I
habitat, and is also of high conservation importance. Although the majority of remaining
habitat areas do not correspond to any Annex I habitat types, they are essential in retaining
the integrity and functioning of the adjacent Annex I habitats, and have high biodiversity
value in their own right, particularly considering the lack of semi-natural habitats in the
surrounding areas, which are dominated either by urban development or intensive
agriculture. Furthermore, these areas represent areas that will in time either develop into
Annex I Alluvial woodland or, with the correct management, could transition into Annex I
Lowland hay meadow. Taken as a whole, this site is of very high ecological and biodiversity
value and it is imperative that it is protected and managed correctly into the future, as a key
local biodiversity area, of great benefit to both local wildlife and to the local community.

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