The use of *native species is an objective of national and international legislation and policy, including the National Biodiversity Plan (2002) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), and contributes to Irelands commitments under the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).
At a European level, the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) provides for the preservation of habitats and species of Community interest and allows for the identification and designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). In encouraging the establishment of corridors and other landscape features between protected areas, Article 10 of the Directive states that “Member States shall endeavour in their land-use planning and development policies, to encourage the management of features of the landscape which are of major importance for wild flora and fauna”-corridors for the dispersal of wildlife are an example of such features in land-use planning.
The European Landscape Convention, 2000, which was ratified by Ireland in 2002, is of particular significance when it comes to utilising native species. This Convention emphasises the need to focus on the wider environment and for protecting and enhancing inherent diversity and characteristics. The Convention states that landscape is a key element of individual and social well-being and its protection, management and planning entails rights and responsibilities for everyone. A stated aim is the adoption of policies aimed at protecting, managing and planning landscapes in Europe so as to maintain and improve “landscape quality” and to bring widespread recognition to the value and importance of the landscape.
The maintenance of landscape quality requires the retention of landscape character, structure (including fabric) and diversity in order to retain naturalness, and a sense of orientation or place. This can only be maintained through the management and promotion of native habitats and plant communities typical of the Irish landscape.
The use of native plants of Irish provenance, therefore:
- complies with international and national landscape policies which emphasise the management of landscape quality;
- contributes to national commitments on the conservation of biological diversity, by providing a positive step towards establishing native habitats and reducing the planting and dispersion of non-native plants;
- restores or compensates for loss of habitat and the retention of regional identity, landscape character and diversity;
- promotes species-specific planting as a valuable toolkit for biodiversity conservation habitat connectivity and environmental mitigation;
- complements the establishment of self-sustaining native species treatments that may be “pre-adapted” to site conditions, therefore requiring minimal resource inputs and maintenance requirements, and
- ensures a reduction in the threat posed by the importation of pests and diseases carried on non-native plant material, which can have a major negative impact on native flora and fauna, the landscape, agriculture and forestry.