Shannon Callow Species-rich Flood Meadows

The meadows along the Shannon support a wealth of biodiversity. The meadows contain mosaics of unusual, and increasingly rare, plant communities that vary from callow to callow and from year to year. These plant communities rely on the annual mowing of the meadows by the farmers to maintain the diversity. The annual mowing prevents scrub from growing over the meadows and prevents strong, competitive plants from becoming dominant; while the subsequent removal of the crop from the meadow is vitally important in maintaining the nutrient balance on the meadows. Keeping the nutrients at a suitably low level ensures less-competitive flowering plants are allowed to grow, flower and set seed. This supports not only the floral diversity but also the vast diversity of insects and other wildlife that live and feed on the meadow plants.

Shannon Callows Species-rich Flood Meadow

Under this measure the number and cover of plant species which are indicators of high quality flood meadows are assessed, as are the cover of negative indicators (e.g. agricultural weeds, competitive species and woody plants) and the amount, if any, of damaging activities.  Targeting of the Species-rich Flood Meadow measure prioritised larger areas of callow meadows to maximise potential uptake by participants (uptake of the national agri-environment schemes is very high in this region) and minimise project travel costs.

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A partially cut meadow in County Offaly. A diversity of mowing dates across the meadows means that while some areas are cut early in the summer (early July) some areas are left uncut for a few days, or even weeks later, serving as refugia for the meadow insects, birds and mammals.

Shannon Callows Species-rich Flood Meadow with Ground-nesting Birds

As well as supporting a diverse and fascinating range of plant and insect species, the meadows of the Shannon Callows are an important habitat for breeding birds. In particular, the meadows provide ideal habitat for highly threatened ground-nesting birds species, such as Whinchat and Curlew.

Both Curlew and Whinchat are on the Red-list of Species of Conservation Concern in Ireland. The greatest threat to the successful breeding of these ground-nesting species is the destruction of nests and mortality of chicks & adults by machinery during mowing. Both Whinchat and Curlew breed late into the breeding season and thus are at particular risk from mowing early in the season.

This measure rewards farmers for both the protection of ground-nesting birds (GNB) and the quality of species-rich meadows present. In the RBAPS project this measure is only offered to those farmers participating in the Species-rich Flood Meadow measure (above) when the presence of Whinchat and/or Curlew has been confirmed in that particular breeding season.  Under this measure, the same scoring indicators are used as in the Species-rich Flood Meadow measure, but at a higher payment rate (additional €50/hectare), as mowing of the meadow is delayed until after July 15th to encourage successful breeding of GNB.

Whinchat ColCla04 (Colum Clarke)

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra). Photo by Colum Clark.

Curlew in Flight (Colum Clarke)

Curlew (Numenius arquata). Photo Colum Clarke.

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This project is funded by the European Commission with co-funding provided by project partners and with support form The Heritage Council, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The opinions expressed on this website or in project documents do not necessarily reflect those of the funders.

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