Why is a Seal Rescue plant trees?
That’s the age-old question, and one we get asked every time we say we are well on our way to planting 25,000 native trees in our Local Catchment.
Seal Rescue Ireland is the sole organisation in Ireland responsible for the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick, injured and orphaned seals around the entire coast of the Republic of Ireland. Over the past 10 years, we have been carefully recording as much data about the root causes of our seals needing to be rescued. Sadly, the main threats all relate to human activity, and therefore, it is our responsibility to learn from every patient and ensure we engage communities in conservation initiatives to ensure no seal needs our help for unnatural reasons.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve recorded a correlation between poor water quality and a rise in illnesses that our patients present with. To address the root cause of this issue, SRI decided to take action and begin Native Habitat Restoration works.
We are working with local farmers, fisheries, landowners, public bodies, community groups and registered foresters to plant 25,000 native Irish trees throughout the Ounavarra Catchment. Our aim is to help protect our freshwater bodies, and regenerate resilient native Habitats that support thriving ecosystems.
Native Trees Planted Each Year
Best Community Initiative that Reduces the Impacts of Climate Change, 2020
Wexford County Council Environment Awards
Best Community Initiative that Reduces the Impacts of Climate Change, 2020, 2021
Wexford County Council Environment Awards
The Top Five Benefits of our project:
1) Regeneration of habitats that are favourable to life, allowing a diverse range of species to re-colonize degraded areas.
2) Targetted and carefully designed planting provides dappled shade to rivers, as well as maximum remediation of degraded habitats. This protects freshwater ecosystems from warming conditions and agricultural run-off but also allows sunlight for freshwater biodiversity to thrive.
3) Mycorrhizae inoculation allows our plant’s roots to form a symbiotic relationship with the fungi to secure soils from erosion, filter out pollutants and excess nutrients, and regenerate the soil food web.
4) Trees, shrubs, ground cover, and soil microorganisms draw down carbon from our atmosphere and lock it into the soil.
5) Trees and Woodlands provide invaluable community amenity space and wellbeing. We aim to include as many members and groups of our community in the immersive, educational opportunities that our habitat restoration work provides.
Our Habitat Restoration Sites
Beginning in 2019, we invited 300 members of the community to join us to plant 600 native trees in an area of Courtown Woods that was devastated by heavy machinery during the dredging of Courtown Harbour. It was an exciting vibrant day, with individuals, families and friend groups joining us for this immersive experience deep in the woods along the Ounavarra River. Three years on and many of the trees have become a rich, understory providing valuable habitat for wildlife and an amazing amenity for the community. We look forward to seeing the Hazel fruit and hopefully getting a taste of their full flavour nuts… but of course, we’ll leave most of the treats for the local woodland creatures.
Following on from the success of our pilot project in Courtown Woods, we reached out to communities in our local area to see if they were interested in Habitat Restoration. We connected with an amazing group of families in Riverchapel, who helped us and other local volunteers to plant 1,800 native trees in their community green space, which runs parallel to the heavily impacted Aughboy River. Two years on and some of the trees are over 10ft tall with a plethora of biodiversity thriving around their feet. We will continue to monitor the benefits this project has for local biodiversity.
Tara Glen & Hill Biodiversity Booster
In 2019, we recognized that there was an opportunity to regenerate the Northern side of Courtown Woods. It is heavily planted in commercial Spruce, with some areas under protection by National Parks & Wildlife Service. We saw an opportunity to collaborate with Tara Glen Golf & Country Club, to plant thousands of diverse native species into the unused areas of the golf course and associated silage fields. We planted 18 different native Irish species to provide forage and habitat for the wild creatures that live in the woods and around the golf course. We also worked with a private land owner to plant a few hundred trees in his field on Tara Hill.
All our hard work has been leading to this opportunity to work on a dairy farm associated with the Ounavarra River. From the get-go, we have focused our efforts on low maintenance, high ecological impact regeneration and, although there are many hydro-morphological and urban pressures on the Ounavarra, the primary impact comes from agriculture. We’re developing and lobbying for a riparian regeneration model that incentivizes a feasible and resilient opportunity for landowners, communities and public bodies to connect and collectively restore Ireland’s waterbodies. Make sure to read more about our planning, implementation and engagement on this project.