Students looking onto the River Shannon on the University of Limerick campus
Monday, 20 May 2024

In an ever-changing world, the importance of biodiversity on our University campus has never been clearer. Through our mission, Biodiverse Campus, we aim to create a thriving, sustainable environment where every species can flourish, and where our community can engage deeply with nature. Together, we can build a greener, more resilient campus that aligns with the goals set forth in the UL Sustainability Framework 2030 and align with the obligations outlined in Ireland’s 4th National Biodiversity Action Plan (2023-2030).

What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth, including the vast diversity of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms, as well as the ecosystems they form and the ecological processes that sustain them. It is vital for ecosystem health, food security, climate regulation, and the provision of countless natural resources.

 Why is Biodiversity Important?

  • Food Security: Biodiversity helps keep soils fertile, pollinates crops, and protects against pests, ensuring sustainable food production.
  • Air and Climate Quality: Healthy ecosystems capture pollutants, produce oxygen, and store carbon dioxide in soils and biomass, playing a crucial role in mitigating climate change.
  • Water Purification and Flow Regulation: Natural ecosystems purify the water we drink and regulate its flow through the landscape, reducing flooding risks.
  • Medicine and Resources: The genetic materials provided by diverse species have contributed to the development of many modern medicines and other vital resources.
  • Cultural and Spiritual Value: Beyond practical benefits, biodiversity offers intangible cultural and spiritual rewards, inspiring us with beauty, peace, and wonder.

The State of Biodiversity in Ireland
Ireland is home to a remarkable array of biodiversity across its terrestrial, freshwater, and marine habitats. With over 31,000 recorded species, and many more yet to be discovered, we find globally important populations of birds, fish, mammals, invertebrates, plants, and fungi in our mountains, rivers, coasts, and peatlands. However, despite this natural richness, our biodiversity is in serious trouble.

 According to Ireland's 4th National Biodiversity Action Plan 2023-2030:

  • Habitats: 85% of our most precious EU-protected habitats are in an unfavourable state, and almost half (46%) are in decline, particularly in marine, peatland, grassland, and woodland habitats. Only 2% have shown improvement over the last 12 years. Semi-natural grasslands have declined by nearly a third in the past decade, and half of our rivers and two-thirds of estuaries are not in good ecological health.
  • Species: Of the 60 EU-protected species in Ireland, 30% are in unfavourable status, and 15% are declining. More than half of native plant species have reduced in range or abundance. Over half of Ireland's 100 bee species have significantly declined since 1980, with 30% threatened with extinction. Moreover, 26% of Ireland's 211 bird species are now on the Red List for high conservation concern. In the marine environment, 48 species face extinction.

 These declines are driven by overgrazing, pollution, invasive species, habitat modification, and climate change. Invasive plants like Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed are also causing substantial damage.

Our BioDiverse Campus Initiatives
Several exciting initiatives are already underway on our Biodiverse Campus. Habitat restoration efforts are helping native plants and wildlife thrive again, pollinator-friendly areas (led by Buildings and Estates Division) and the UL Apiary (led by the UL Environmental Committee) are enhancing the beauty of our surroundings while protecting key species, wildlife monitoring programmes are collecting crucial data, while a collaborative initiative with local communities to revitalise the River Shannon is underway. 

Yet, to truly make a difference, we need the participation of the entire University of Limerick community. Whether you're a student passionate about conservation, a faculty member with valuable expertise, or a staff member eager to contribute, there's a role for you in this mission. 

Join us through educational workshops, volunteer opportunities, or by advocating for biodiversity on campus. Together, we've already achieved significant milestones, but there’s much more to be done. By nurturing our diverse natural heritage, we can lay the groundwork for a healthier, more sustainable future. Let’s continue to transform our campus into a sanctuary where nature thrives. Visit the Mission Lab to find out more.