Biodiversity (or biological diversity) is our life support system. It is the variety of all life forms on Earth, from the tiniest bugs living in the soil, to the butterflies, the plants they feed on, to the largest of the deer in the forest, the red deer.
Ireland’s forests and woodlands are important habitats and support a huge array of flora and fauna (biodiversity).
Invertebrates are the most diverse and abundant form of life you will find in the forest. Lift any rock or log and you will find all sorts of creepy crawlies! Invertebrates include; spiders, beetles, woodlice, snails, worms, ants, butterflies, caterpillars and many more. Many of these invertebrates live in very specific micro-habitats and can be very sensitive to change.
About 28% of our bird species are considered as woodland species. Many of the bird species feast on the invertebrates listed above. Some of the species found in our woods include; chaffinch, robin, wren, various tits, wood pigeon, treecreeper, jay, blackbird and goldcrest. Two bird species that have returned to Ireland’s forests are the buzzard and the great spotted woodpecker.
Many of Ireland’s mammals happily live both within and outside our forests. Mammal species include all deer species, badger, fox, red and grey squirrel, otter, pine marten, stoats, hedgehog, wood mice, and a number of bat species such as whiskered, natterers and lesser horseshoe.
Domestic species, such as sheep and cattle can also be part of the woodland habitat and in some cases play an important role. With the right amount of grazing, biodiversity can increase and the structure of the woodland can be varied.