Survey of Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) Habitat in Ireland

Crushell, P and O’Callaghan, R. (2008). Survey of Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) habitat in Ireland. Report and accompanying GIS datasets prepared for National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government, Ireland.

Report coverThis project was undertaken on behalf of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and BirdWatch Ireland to determine the status of Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) habitat across its entire range in Ireland. Red Grouse are known to be in serious decline in recent decades and is listed as a species of high conservation concern in the Irish Red Data Book. Red Grouse in Ireland are closely associated with Ling Heather (Calluna vulgaris) dominated habitats such as upland heath-land, blanket bog and lowland raised bog. Much of the decline is thought to be due to deterioration of habitat quality resulting from changes and intensification of land-use.

The main aim of the RGHS was to gather data to enable an assessment of the habitat relationships of Red Grouse and the impacts of land-use such as grazing, afforestation, peat extraction and burning on their distribution in the Republic of Ireland.

One hundred 1 km square sites were selected for detailed habitat survey, these sites occurred within the known former range of the species. At each site a detailed assessment was made of habitats and land-use. Data from the survey findings was stored in a specially designed Microsoft Access database and in an ArcView GIS thus enabling efficient and detailed analysis of data.

Analysis of the data showed that despite potential grouse habitat occurring in all sites surveyed, a large proportion of the habitat is likely to be unsuitable for Grouse due to damage that has been caused by different land-use practices. Sheep grazing has been shown to be the most widespread land-use occurring on over 70 sites and 20 of these sites were deemed to be severely damaged by this activity. Coniferous plantation forestry and mechanical peat extraction are other widespread land-uses which cover a significant proportion of the total area surveyed and are likely to impact on the occurrence of grouse within the sites surveyed.

The data collected during the survey will be of importance in determining possible habitat associations and requirements of Red Grouse in Ireland thus enabling well-informed decisions be made regarding the future conservation of this endangered species. For further information or for a copy of the final Red Grouse Habitat Survey report contact BirdWatch Ireland or National Parks and Wildlife Service.

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