At MKO, our Ecology Team is one of Ireland’s largest, full-time professional ecology practices and works nationwide. We can meet the large-scale survey demands of the largest projects and the quick response requirements required by some clients. Our expertise spans habitat, avian, bat, and freshwater ecology, as well as the critical function of putting that ecological knowledge into a written form that non-ecologists can interpret as part of the planning or other consent processes. Our Ecology Team comprises full-time employees, which guarantees consistency of our approach and advice across projects and allows learnings to be shared across projects for the benefit of our clients.
Ecological Impact Assessments
We prepare comprehensive and fit-for-purpose Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIA) as either stand-alone reports or for use as chapters of an EIS/EIAR. The scope of each EcIA is tailored to the specific client’s requirements of their site and project. They can be targeted at a specific ecological subject matter of relevance or span the full spectrum of ecology, from terrestrial habitats, flora and fauna, to freshwater, marine and avian ecology. Our EcIA is solutions-focused, proposing ways to mitigate potential impacts rather than just identify problems. Our clients benefit from the EcIA experience we bring to their projects, from working on some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects.
Habitats Directive Assessments (AASR/NIS/HDA)
The requirements of the EU Habitats Directive are well known to us, and we prepare Appropriate Assessment Screening Reports (AASR) as Stage 1 assessment/reports or Natura Impact Statements (NIS) as Stage 2 assessment/reports. Our expert knowledge of the requirements, pitfalls and nuances of habitats directive assessments has been honed by completing many hundred such assessments/reports over the last decade. Our knowledge of the planning system makes us acutely aware of the planning implications of conducting a Stage 2 assessment for developments that otherwise would not require planning permission. Given our experience, we can advise clients quickly on whether a Stage 1 screening will suffice or whether an entire Stage 2 assessment is required.
Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW)
To help clients complete their civil engineering projects while avoiding ecological risks and resultant delays, we provide an Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) to oversee and guide construction projects. The ECoW can clear the way for construction activities by carrying out pre-commencement surveys (badgers, bat roost, otter, etc.) or can stay on-site to work with contractors to ensure ecological mitigation measures are implemented most effectively. Sites with invasive species (e.g. Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam) regularly require an ECoW presence to ensure excavated materials are identified and managed correctly, and costs to contractors/developers are minimised. Our presence can be full-time or as required by the scale of the project, site sensitivity or client’s requirements.
Our bat surveying experience, equipment and expertise allow us to manage surveys from the most sensitive locations to the largest sites. We invested in the latest handheld and remote identification technology and software to improve bat survey accuracy and results. Our team, which includes qualified bat handlers, conduct all types of bat surveys required, walked surveys, building inspections, remote surveys or a combination of all the above. Surveys are tailored to the site, the type of proposed development and the time of year. Monitoring devices can be left in place for weeks or months at a time, capturing long-period data across large sites, giving large amounts of data that would otherwise be very costly to capture via surveyors.
Habitat surveys and mapping
Our habitat surveying and habitat mapping is a fundamental component of practically every ecological survey we undertake. We also conduct large-scale dedicated habitat survey and mapping exercises over large scale sites ranging from thousands of hectares to hundreds of kilometres along waterway or other corridors. We use the most efficient digital mapping tools, assisted by high-quality aerial photography, with ground truthing by experience ecologists on-foot. We can tailor the data captured to the client’s individual requirements or GIS specifications. We use the optimum combination of technology for efficiency, and experienced ecological personnel for full confidence in our survey results and outputs.
Invasive species surveys and management
We survey, identify and propose management options for dealing with all types of invasive species. We do so primarily for civil engineering contractors, utilities or developers who must deal with invasive species during their projects. We also act for property, insurance and financial firms who need to assess any invasive species risks associated with their property interests. The initial surveys we conduct can be supplemented with on-site Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) staff during the construction stage to ensure the invasive plant materials are being properly managed and costs of treatment, management and disposal and minimised. We bring a practical, experienced and pragmatic approach to every invasive species job.
We prepare Ecological Management Plans, Conservation Strategies and Ecological Audit Reports for public bodies and state agencies. We supplement the expert knowledge held within those client organisations with additional ecological capabilities and capacity to meet their requirements. We can assign multiple members of our Ecology Team to work on completing assignments in short timeframes when a particular deadline must be met. We have supported clients by providing these services on projects relating to National Parks, World Heritage Sites, and Biosphere Reserves, amongst others. Rarely are any two such projects the same, and the individual requirements of every client, site or project are identified and customised to ensure the outputs are fit-for-purpose.
Protected Species Surveys
Protected species often require dedicated surveys, either as part of impact assessment reports or for conservation research projects, and we regularly do both. We conduct Stage 1 and Stage 2 Freshwater Pearl Mussel surveys and surveys for lamprey, white-clawed crayfish in other watercourses. On land, otter, badger and marsh fritillary butterfly surveys are amongst the most common we undertake. Every species of bat found in Ireland is legally protected, and bat surveys are one of our specialist areas. All protected species surveys are designed with the client’s purposes and requirements, whether to fully inform an impact assessment report accompanying a planning application or do a comprehensive baseline survey for future reference.
Our experienced ecologists and qualified arborists undertake tree surveys as may be required as part of a planning permission application or to accompany a development proposal. Recording, identifying and classifying the key differentiating parameters of trees, in addition to assessing condition, is important in determining whether a development proposal might impact on tree setting or condition. Our tree surveys can also encompass tree protection recommendations, which can be adopted by developers or authorities as requirements to be taken into the development phase of a project.
Competent Authority Support
We regularly support Planning Authorities in fulfilling their role as the “Competent Authority” for the purposes of the Habitats Directive. We independently assess planning applications and proposals and the ecological reports, screening assessment or Natura Impact Statements that accompany them. We advise the Competent Authorities on the ecological subject matter under consideration, which may be outside their own areas of expertise.
In providing recommendations and reporting on any proposal, the Competent Authority can adopt our recommendations as their own or consider along with their own internal views or opinions coming from elsewhere, in reaching their final decision. Our offering to Competent Authority is a support and advisory service, as the statutory function always remains with the Authority itself.
Article 6(4) & IROPI – Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest
Having been involved in the first development in the State to rely on the provisions of Article 6(4) of the EU Habitats Directive, and make a case that the development should proceed for Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI), we have an intimate working knowledge of the procedures and processes involved in attempting to progress projects in this way. We advise clients that believe their project may have to be progressed via Article 6(4) route, of the implications and obligations of pursuing such a strategy.
Conservation Detection Dogs
Click here to read more about our Conservation Detection Dogs service offering.