The Dublin Bay biosphere encompasses over 300 sq. km of marine and terrestrial habitat and is managed by the Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership, which is led by the three relevant local authorities, Dublin City Council, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Fingal County Council. The partnership also involves other key stakeholders such as the Dublin Port Company and representatives from Fáilte Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The partnership works with community groups, non-governmental organisations, NGOs, businesses, universities and schools. Over 300,000 people live within the newly enlarged biosphere area.
Biospheres are internationally recognised for their natural resources and biodiversity, where nature and human activities connect. They are actively managed to promote a balanced relationship between people and nature through conservation on the one hand and sustainable economic development and human activity on the other hand.
Another important goal of biospheres is promoting research and learning. Biosphere status is a designation granted by UNESCO, as part of its man and biosphere programme, launched in 1971, where it has been established that there is a co-ordinated approach to the conservation of habitats, species and landscapes through monitoring change and supporting research which fosters the potential for human activity and development.
Areas are awarded biosphere reserve status by UNESCO and are managed in partnership by communities, NGOs and local and national governments. It should be noted, however, that there are no specific additional planning burdens or conservation requirements associated with biosphere status. In most cases, as with Ireland's two biospheres, in Kerry and Dublin Bay, the areas are designated as special areas of conservation, SACs, or special protection areas, SPAs, and, accordingly, are already afforded statutory protections. Development within biospheres is subject to the existing comprehensive legislative and policy planning framework implemented by all levels of government.
The management of the Dublin Bay biosphere is led by the three local authorities. While my Department is not the anchor component of the biosphere, it has nevertheless provided significant additional and expert support through the auspices of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, and it also provides small amounts of project funding from time to time. Approximately €30,000 has been provided in the past two years.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The biosphere is part of the European Union's Natura 2000 network of protected sites in accordance with the birds and habitats directives. As such, Dublin Bay biosphere is protected under the national legislation implementing these directives - the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 and the wildlife Acts. The NPWS investigates on an ongoing basis breaches of the regulations and the wildlife Acts and undertakes visits to Natura 2000 sites, as required.
The EuroMAB 2019 conference was hosted by Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership, with assistance from my Department, between Tuesday, 2 April and Friday, 5 April. This four-day biennial conference for stakeholders from 302 UNESCO biospheres in 36 countries across Europe and North America welcomed practitioners, managers, policymakers, researchers, educators, ecologists, scientists, social entrepreneurs, creatives and community leaders. Ireland sits on the steering group of the man and the biosphere programme and is represented by Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership.
Through its ten-year capital plan for investment, Investing in Our Culture, Language and Heritage 2018-2027, my Department has committed to safeguarding our unique natural heritage and biodiversity and ensuring a sustainable future. We intend to celebrate and highlight Ireland's remarkable heritage on the international stage through investment in the management of our UNESCO biosphere reserves.