We are very fortunate in Ireland that we have an abundance of native hedgerows, planted and maintained by our forebears. All too often we take them for granted and do not appreciate their importance to our well-being or to the natural world around us.
Hedgerows provide homes to numerous plant and animal species. They are also important for water quality as they can be used to provide shade to water courses keeping water cool and providing shade for aquatic animals. They can be used to provide a buffer to prevent pollution entering streams and their uptake of nutrients can help reduce nutrients entering waterways, thus avoiding nutrient enrichment of waters. Strategically placed along land contours they can also help prevent silt from being washed into waterways. In some areas of the country hedgerows have shallow ditches that are very important for drainage and as these contain water they are also important habitats for invertebrates and potentially young fish. They also provide a welcome water source for birds and wild animals.
Protecting hedges is then a very important part of protecting water quality and protecting biodiversity. Plant growth takes carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere adding to the many easy wins for nature and climate achieved by protecting and developing native species hedgerows. In addition to all that, they also provide food such as blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, crab apples and hazelnuts.
There are many reasons to celebrate hedgerows. Teagasc and the Heritage Council are hosting events across the country during Hedgerow week and it will be possible to learn more about hedges and hopefully people will be encouraged to grow more of these heroes for nature.
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