Co-operation Across Borders for Biodiversity (CABB)

CABB is a three-country, six-partner conservation project that will improve habitats for birds, butterflies and plants across Northern Ireland, Ireland and the west coast of Scotland.

Overview

Peatlands, wet grasslands and machair provide vital homes for a range of wildlife, including curlews, lapwings, hen harriers and marsh fritillary butterflies. Many of these habitats are under threat from drainage, inappropriate grazing, lack of management and climate change.

Supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), CABB is a €4.9m five-year partnership project. It is led by RSPB NI and also involves RSPB Scotland, Birdwatch Ireland, Butterfly Conservation, Moors for the Future and Northern Ireland Water.
 
Over the next five years we will work in partnership with farmers, landowners, statutory agencies and other key organisations to improve habitats at some of our most precious sites, which have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). We will produce Conservation Action Plans (CAPs) for eight SACs/SPAs in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland. 

The CABB team will also conduct habitat management work at key sites, including blocking drains to re-wet blanket bogs, introducing predator fences and new grazing regimes on blanket bog and machair, managing rush on lowland wet grassland, and consolidating the sea wall at Loch Gruinart, Islay, to protect the habitat beyond for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl. 

Objectives

  • Improve habitats for breeding wading birds such as curlews, lapwings, redshanks and snipe as well as hen harriers and marsh fritillary butterflies.
  • Work towards the restoration of 2,228 hectares (ha) of blanket bog across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Ireland.
  • Work closely with landowners and farmers to map habitats and prepare eight Conservation Action Plans (CAPs) for EU-designated sites (Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas).
  • Raise awareness in local communities of the environmental, cultural and historic importance of blanket bogs and key wetland habitats.
  • Share experiences, best practice and data.

Progress

  • Winter 2017/18 and Winter 18/19: Northern Ireland Water carry out extensive drain blocking on the Garron Plateau in Co Antrim to help restore blanket bog and improve habitat for breeding waders.  Informed by a site survey delivered by peatland restoration experts at Moors for the Future, RSPB volunteers mark out drains prior to specialist diggers arriving on site. Over 840 peat dams are now in place.
  • December 2017 - December 2018: at Airds Moss in east Ayrshire the Shiel Farm plantation to bog restoration is commissioned and the groundwork successfully completed. The former bog is now almost wholly re-wetted and we look forward to seeing revegetation in the coming growing season. The installation of new fencing provides much improved grazing infrastructure for vegetation management. A demonstration day for land managers was well-received and generated plenty of enthusiastic discussion on the practicalities of vegetation management and its role in conserving ground-nesting wader species.
  • September and October 2018: 3,000m of new fencing installed at Montiaghs Moss in Co Antrim, along with improvements to existing fencing. Combined with the introduction of cattle grazing and scrub clearance this will help to improve the habitat for birds, butterflies and invertebrates.
  • March and October 2018: CABB conservation work receives high profile coverage on local radio and television. BBC Radio Ulster show ‘Your Place and Mine’ visits the Garron Plateau in Co Antrim in early spring, while the search for Irish damselflies at Montiaghs Moss features in UTV’s ‘Lough Neagh’ series.
  • Summer 2017 and Summer 2018: BirdWatch Ireland carry out annual breeding wader surveys across twenty key sites in counties Donegal and Sligo.
  • Autumn 2017 and Autumn 2018: successful habitat improvements are implemented on Inisheher Island, Co Leitrim, with the removal of scrub and rank vegetation to support breeding curlew. A sustainable grazing management plan is also implemented at Pettigo National Nature Reserve in Co Donegal following the erection of nearly 10km of fencing.
  • September 2017: BirdWatch Ireland completes full survey of machair and coastal grassland sites important for breeding waders in counties Donegal and Sligo.
  • Autumn 2017 and Autumn 2018: successful habitat improvements are implemented on Inisheher Island, Co Leitrim, with the removal of scrub and rank vegetation to support breeding curlew. A sustainable grazing management plan is also implemented at Pettigo National Nature Reserve in Co Donegal following the erection of nearly 10km of fencing.
  • Early 2018 and Autumn / Winter 2018/2019: rush-cutting commences at Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh using specialist wetland adapted equipment to improve habitat for breeding waders.
  • February - September 2018: Co Fermanagh records a bumper year for the marsh fritillary butterfly. Butterfly Conservation identify five new breeding sites here, in addition to three more in the border counties, incorporating 40 larval webs at Montiaghs Moss and 36 at Pettigoe Plateau in Co Fermanagh. Butterfly Conservation host three surveying workshops in the autumn and 34 new volunteers are trained in recording and identifying breeding sites for marsh fritillary.
  • June 2018: contractors begin to deliver detailed habitat and LiDAR mapping of CABB sites in N. Ireland, Ireland and Scotland. Mapping enhances our understanding of the varying habitats within each site and informs the specific actions that need to be taken to improve the condition of the land and enhance opportunities for wildlife.
  • April and May 2018: upland bird surveys carried out across sites. Unfortunately, a Golden Plover survey at Pettigoe Plateau did not record any of these birds, highlighting the concern for this species. However, the first ever sighting in Co Fermanagh of colletes succinctus (a solitary bee that feeds on heather) is recorded at Pettigoe in August.
  • CABB Project Officers, partner staff, statutory agency representatives and other stakeholders continue to learn from each other and share best practice through visiting CABB sites, seeing practical conservation work in action, hearing about similar initiatives and sharing information. Activities include an information sharing event with representatives of our sister 'Collaborative Action for the Natura Network’ (CANN) project, attendance at the IUCN Peatland Programme conference in Loch Lomond and hosting a variety of landowner and community outreach events.
  • 2017 and 2018: throughout the project Northern Ireland-based CABB staff work closely with farmer and landowners by directing them to the Environmental Funding Scheme (EFS)which helps farmers to carry out environmentally friendly farming practices on agricultural land.
  • January - December 2017: CABB project receives confirmation of INTERREG VA funding. Management and delivery staff are appointed and the development of Conservation Action Plans (CAPs) begins.
 

 

Planned Work

By the end of 2021 we aim to have:
  • Published eight Conservation Action Plans for key EU designated SACs and SPAs. 
  • Blocked drains on the Garron Plateau with a view to restoring 444ha of blanket bog.
  • Blocked drains on the Muirkirk Uplands to allow 435ha of blanket bog to start recovering. 
  • Improved the condition of 900ha of blanket bog on the Dunragh Loughs/Pettigo Plateau SAC by erecting fencing and improving grazing. 
  • Blocked drains at Finandarry in the Ox Mountains with a view to restoring 449ha of blanket bog.
  • Improved 151ha of habitat at the Montiaghs SAC through water level management, scrub clearance, grazing and the installation of fencing.
  • Improved public access to the Montiaghs SAC through provision of a boardwalk and signage.
  • Improved 252ha of wet grassland in Co Fermanagh for breeding waders.
  • Consolidated the sea wall at Loch Gruinart, Islay, to protect key areas for breeding and wintering birds.
  • Uploaded habitat and species data to the main data management sites in each of the three countries.
 

 

Partners

CABB is a partnership between the following organisations. Please visit their websites to find out more about their involvement in CABB.

Funding

CABB is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding for the project has been provided by Mines Restoration Ltd., the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland.

Eco Eye - Garron Plateau Bog Restoration

'For Peat's sake'

Duncan travels to Northern Ireland to view a bog restoration project at Garron Plateau that has been showing some promising results for water quality, bog regeneration, and local wildlife.

Play video

Further reading

Find out how CABB will benefit curlews

The RSPB's work at Airds Moss Reserve
Why boglands are so important for birds and other wildlife

CABB is also working collaboratively with the following two initiatives:

How you can help

There are currently opportunities to volunteer with RSPB Scotland at the Airds Moss site. Please contact: mark.mitchell@rspb.org.uk or 0141 331 9809.
 

For more information about:

 

 

 

Tagged with: Country: Northern Ireland Country: Scotland Habitat: Wetland Species: Curlew Species: Hen harrier Species: Lapwing Species: Redshank Species: Snipe Project status: Project types: Species protection