Where have all the birds gone? RTÉ’s Prime Time examines biodiversity loss
Tonight, RTÉ One at 9.35pm
Tonight, RTÉ One’s Prime Time asks where have all the birds gone? Where are the wild salmon? The programme examines the connection between Ireland’s loss of nature and climate change, the environmental damage that’s already been done and explores potential solutions.
Prime Time looks at how the twin crises of Ireland’s biodiversity loss and climate change – declared as emergencies in 2019 – are inter-related and speaks to experts about how the natural world is degraded, and about potential solutions.
Yvonne Buckley, Professor of Zoology Trinity College Dublin and co-Chair of the All-Island Climate and Biodiversity Research Network warns Prime Time: “The ecosystem is like the “Jenga” game… where if you pull out one brick and another brick, the tower still stays standing, but then you pull out another brick and it gets a bit shakier. Pull out another brick and it could collapse”
She added: “Eight-five per cent of our most protected habitats are actually in inadequate or poor states, and that’s in our most recent bit of European monitoring. So these are supposed to be our most protected habitats and 85pc of them are not up to scratch. If we’re struggling to protect biodiversity in what should be legally our most protective sites, then you can imagine how bad it is in the rest of the countryside and in the seas as well.”
Prime Time Reporter Oonagh Smyth examines why wild Atlantic salmon have declined so dramatically over recent decades, falling around 80pc since 2000. According to Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Dr Michael Millane climate change means “salmon have to travel further to access spawning grounds” and fishing at sea is also “changing the abundance and quality of food for salmon” in the Atlantic.
Prime Time Reporter Conor Wilson examines the inextricable link between climate change and the loss of habitat and species. He joins BirdWatch Ireland as they count the number of wintering water birds landing on then wetlands near North Bull Island in Dublin. This is part of years long study on Ireland bird population. According to Oonagh Duggan, Head of Policy at BirdWatch Ireland birds are a great barometer of the health of the country’s biodiversity.
She says: “We’re not responding and that’s the key problem. Nature is dying in Ireland between disturbance to migratory waterbirds at the special protection areas for them, which is the wetlands in estuaries and on lakes and other aquatic environments… We’re basically chipping away at the available space for these birds and they are not able to cope with us, they’re not able to manage us. Now we also have climate change is impacting those species as well and obviously we haven’t been acting fast enough on that either.”
The programme also visits the farm of rewilder and “high value” farmer Eoghan Daltun on the Beara Peninsula. Eoghan tells Prime Time how his property has been brought back to what Ireland used to be like. He believes that farmers can be part of the solution to the biodiversity loss by paying them in order to leave parts of their land to go wild.
Watch Prime Time Climate Special on Biodiversity tonight at 9.35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player.