Costello has written The Book on Transhumance and the making of Ireland's Uplands. But he's also written a very interesting paper: Hill farmers, habitats and time: the potential of historical ecology in upland management and conservation. Which is £75 = €83 easier to read. His thesis is twofold:
- The concept of SACs [Special Areas of Conservation] is based on a snap-shot of land-use, land-disuse, flora and fauna in 2000 AD. This is fantastically [as in fantasy] short-sighted and gives no way of predicting, and thereby impacting / controlling, the future. It is all very well to protect the species characteristic of Upland Heath:
- Potentilla erecta tormentil Néalfartach;
- Galium saxatile heath bedstraw Luibh na bhfear gonta;
- Trichophorum cespitosum deergrass Cíb cheanngheal;
- Erica tetralix Cross-leaved Heath Fraoch Naoscaí;
- Vaccinium myrtillus blueberry/bilberry Fraochán
But think!: by privileging these species, are we preventing the flourishing of other ecotypes which may be in a better position to handle climate change?
- On the other (it was ever thus) hand, the proper study of how things were 100, 500, 800 years ago may allow us to focus our attentions and avoid futility planting such as my sister invested in during her time on Erraid.
And did someone mention burning the wood . . . as a matter of deliberate practice? My polymathic pal Mick Monaghan is convinced that a string of horizontal platforms along the downhill edge of the Blackstairs commonages were created to pile a stack of timber to make charcoal for the iron foundry in Enniscorthy 15 km to the East on the River Slaney. Costello reaches similar conclusions for Bunbinnia, Co Kerry.
If charcoal commands a price, then it can be produced sustainably through a system of coppicing. Woodland and sheep don't mix but if you can give the woods a head-start and the stocking is not too dense it is possible to diversify the habitat and support a greater range of species. There is a hint in the place-name data that woods existed in gullies, draws and cliffs which are inclement for sheep. Thought-provoking stuff.
Post a Comment