While President Michael D Higgins’ dog Bród may be among the most popular animals at Áras an Uachtaráin, the Dublin landmark is home to a surprising number of other species. A study published last month found that the 130-acre presidential grounds contain 14 distinct habitats that provide homes to more than 800 different species of plant, animal and fungus.

Nearly 300 species of plants, 200 species of fungi, more than 50 species of birds and nearly 250 species of invertebrates have been identified and recorded on the site by a team of ecologists from Trinity College Dublin (TCD). Researchers said that the Áras an Uachtaráin site is “extremely diverse” and is home to the majority of Ireland’s bat species, which avail of the site’s woodlands, pastures and pond.
Other creatures found on the grounds include black-and-white badgers that have taken up residence in an old tunnel by the icehouse, along with many cave spiders. There were also recordings of macro moths and bumble bees.

Important biodiversity site

Project team leader Jane Stout, who is a professor of botany at TCD, said the levels of biodiversity were “surprising”.

“By managing for biodiversity in the long-term, the site will continue to provide benefits for its residents and visitors for many years to come,” she added. “These benefits include carbon storage in trees and grasslands, habitats for wildlife, and cultural benefits for visitors and local residents.”
TCD’s Dr Aoibheann Gaughran said Áras an Uachtaráin has great potential as an important biodiversity site.

“There is great potential to enhance the biodiversity of Áras an Uachtaráin even further, from actions to improve and restore species-rich grasslands to creating habitat for insects, pollinators, birds and mammals to nest in, as well as even perhaps the creation of new wetland habitats,” she said.

“It is an incredible opportunity to showcase how a landscape that was created and managed by people for people, can also be one where nature, in all its forms, really thrives.”

Colm Gorey

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