Farming in the project area
The agricultural system in the KerryLIFE project area is extensive mixed livestock grazing and little agro-chemical inputs combined with labour intensive management practices. This low intensity agricultural system has created a unique cultural and semi-natural landscape that continues to be managed by traditional farmers and their animals to the present day. This has resulted in the Iveragh peninsula being a repository of a unique flora and fauna (Kramm et al., 2010).
Changes in farm practices
Farming systems in the Iveragh Peninsula have changed substantially in recent years with livestock being concentrated on better quality land while marginal areas are being abandoned. There have also changes in the animals being farmed. Traditional Scotch Blackface sheep are increasingly crossed with or replaced by lowland breeds, leading to a softening in sheep. While the use of the native rustic Kerry cow that grazed the rough grasses, bracken, gorse and soft rushes in the winter are also on the decline. Such changes over a relatively short time have disrupted a formerly sustainable relationship between farming and nature. The KerryLIFE project will work with farmers to solve the challenges faced by farmers in freshwater pearl mussel catchments.
The project has just started working with 50 of 288 farmers demonstrating conservation measures to support the conservation of the freshwater pearl mussel. The project brings together all the different stakeholders; farmers, forest owners, government agencies and the rural development company to develop local solutions to support the freshwater pearl mussel, while sustaining the farm enterprise. The project will trial and demonstrate funded conservation practices such as livestock management, nutrient management planning, drainage management, stabilising riverbanks through broadleaf tree planting, and the restructuring of commercial forests. The project aims to work with farmers covering approximately 5,000Ha of farmland. Both the Caragh and Blackwater catchments which make up the KerryLIFE project area are designated as Special Areas of Conservation under Natura 2000.
Conservation Actions on Farms
The KerryLIFE project is trialling a number of farm-based freshwater pearl mussel conservation actions including:
- Sustainable grazing and livestock management
- Sustainable farm nutrient management
- Sustainable drain management
- Installing livestock drinking water facilities to reduce risk of damage to rivers and streams
- Establishing in-field hedgerow and grass buffer strips
- Stabilising river and stream banks with broadleaf tree planting