Kylemore Abbey  from lake
Kylemore Mosses
Kylemore Leaf with larve
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Sustainability Actions

In August 2021, Kylemore Abbey launched a biodiversity and sustainability stewardship programme with NUI Galway. This programme is a major step in understanding and protecting the environment around Kylemore. 

Kylemore Abbey and NUI Galway, Centre for Environmental Science, have set up a Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. In light of this programme NUIG students have started research projects on Kylemore estate. Here are just some of the work that is currently underway on the Kylemore Estate.

Ken – Invasive species study focused on Common rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum)

NUIG drone surveillanceOn a sunny February day, NUIG student Ken and his assistant Alan visited Kylemore to do a drone survey. The survey aims to map out the Common rhododendron infestation. The fast little drone took footage of vast areas of the estate at a furious pace. However, as the survey moved to higher sections on Dúchruach hill, the crosswinds proved to be too strong for the light weight drone. Ken and Alan found time in June to return and complete the survey with a bigger, heavier drone. That same day, Ken undertook several field surveys to get an up and close picture of the different species of flora on the estate and how the Common rhododendron affects them.

One of the main finds was the catastrophic extend of the rhododendron infestation; it has taken a foothold in almost every nook and cranny of the estate and nothing else can establish itself underneath. We are looking forward to Ken’s survey results and recommendations.

Declan and Hugh – Small mammal and bat survey

Declan and Hugh, two other NUIG students, visited Kylemore over several evenings in July to complete a mammal and bat survey on the estate of Kylemore.

Declan – Small mammal survey

SurveyDeclan set out humane traps and wildlife cameras to catch a glimpse of the mammal wildlife. The first kind of trap set out by Declan can be left for several days. They consist of open pipes with bait inside to lure mammals to walk through them. The smaller pipes have tape on either side to catch some of the animal’s hairs. The bigger pipes have an inkpad and paper that catches their pawprints. In the lab, hairs and pawprints are analysed to determine the species of mammal that passed through the pipe. The second kind of trap that Declan set out were “life traps”. These traps need to be re-checked within 24 hours to make sure no animal is held captive for too long. The bait consists of a slice of pear (to make sure the animal stays hydrated), some peanut butter, oats and straw to keep warm overnight. A caught animal is first released in a translucent bag Survey2before letting it back into the wild. This avoids handling the animal and enables a quick assessment of what species is caught. Declan also placed several wildlife cameras with night vision on promising spots to photograph the larger mammals of the estate.

The wildlife camera picked up the presence of a badger and, at the same location, a fox. Several pipe traps came back with pawprints and fine hairs. The life traps only caught two plump looking mice. We do know of other species of mammals that roam the estate, such as the stoat, deer, and pine marten.

Hugh – Bat survey

Bat Study at KylemoreAs the sun sets around 10 pm in July, the bat survey had to take place late in the evening. There are nine bat species in Ireland. Bats, depending on what species, emerge from their roosts between sunset and 1 hour and a half after sunset. Hugh surveyed the bats over several evenings on different locations with a bat detector. He recorded the sounds to research and confirm the species. A bat detector is a small hand-held device that picks up ultrasound (sound at frequencies too high for us to pick up) and convert it into audible sound. By analyzing the frequency and the pattern of the sound, the bat species is determined. A calm, dry night is perfect to go “bat hunting”, but be willing to brave one of the bats food sources: the dreaded midges!!

Hugh still has to analyse the recordings, but he is confident he picked up pipistrelle bats at the Neo-Gothic Church and the Daubenton’s bat skimming the water surface of Pollacappul lake and the Dawros river.

April 2022 update:

‘Habitats of Kylemore: An assessment of habitats and their conservation potential’ – dissertation by Sara Sheridan
Due to Covid restrictions, Sara’s research was confined to desk research. Her research aimed to explore if sites with historical and cultural importance could play a valuable part in habitat and biodiversity conservation. She used old maps and aerial photographs to map out the different habitats on Kylemore estate. The habitat maps she created show the changes in the landscape between 1829 and 2013. Sara identified ten different habitats, of which Woodland & scrub, Peatland, and Grassland & marsh are the most significant. The last-mentioned habitat shrunk considerably from 43% around the 1830s to 14% in 2013. Sara summarises that managing and protecting the different habitats on the estate will encourage biodiversity and potentially offers economic value. She cites the link between Muckross House and Killarney Park as an example of a successful link between historical and conservation value.

‘Review of the Biodiversity Present on the grounds of Kylemore Estate and within the vicinity of the site’ – dissertation by James Glackin
James’s research suffered the same COVID constraints as Sara’s. James analysed all the species recorded in a 10km x 10km area around the estate. He used data from the National Biodiversity Centre of Ireland, did a literature review, and mapped the findings. His results give a better understanding of the biodiversity on the estate. Species impacted by Kylemore estate can be identified and an action plan can be developed to help maintain a healthy ecosystem. James’s research shows 853 different recorded species, 50 out of the 853 are classified as threatened and 13 as invasive non-native species. He concluded that the area surrounding Kylemore estate is a fully functioning ecosystem but that many species are sensitive to human activities like increases in sediment, organic pollution, climate change, invasive species and increased predation.

‘Biosecurity Protocol for Kylemore Abbey’ – Karoline Illien, Moya O’Donnell (Group1), Edward Ferns, Alison Norman, Eluise Vas  (Group 2)
After a visit to Kylemore estate, this group of students worked on developing a biosecurity protocol for Kylemore Abbey. The protocol outlines procedures and guidelines for employees and visitors to avoid the introduction and further spread of invasive non-native species. The spread of invasive species is possibly the second most important cause of biodiversity loss in the world. The students’ guidelines cover the detection, monitoring, removal, and safe disposal of invasive species, the education of employees, contractors, and visitors, and the safe usage of machinery and tools. They concluded that effective biosecurity measures and protocols are very useful in the management and prevention of invasive alien species, but they do require effort and dedication from everyone involved to be successful.

‘Bat Survey at Kylemore Abbey, investigation into bat activity at the estate’ – research project by Hugh O’Rourke
Hugh’s survey focused on the bats present on Kylemore estate. Bats are a great indicator of the health of the ecosystem they live in. With the help of a bat detector and visual confirmation of flight patterns and roost location, Hugh was could confirm the presence of the Soprano Pipistrelle and the Daubenton‘s bat. The frequencies of the Brown long-eared bat and the Natterer’s bat were also picked up, however, the bats were not visually confirmed. Hugh made recommendations in his research paper to help the bat population on the estate. He advised organising further surveys to confirm all species of bats present and their population size. To minimize artificial light on the estate, to maintain the bats’ food- and roots sources and educate people about these amazing little creatures. He concluded that Kylemore estate is a suitable place for bats to live and that the unique opportunities are there to protect and nurture them.

‘The role that Kylemore Abbey can play in terms of conservation and protection of Irish mammals for the future’ – research project by Declan Gill
Declan’s survey into the terrestrial mammals on Kylemore estate is an important first step in establishing relevant conservation programmes. It is a starting point for future surveys and the development of a biodiversity management plan. Declan used data from the National Biodiversity Data Centre, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and conducted on-site surveys with various traps and trail cameras. Twelve species of terrestrial mammals are recorded around the estate (Hedgehog, Irish Hare, House mouse, Fallow deer, Red squirrel, Otter, Rabbit, Red Deer, Feral goat, European rabbit, Brown hare, American mink) and seven were detected with the help of the traps and visual confirmation (Wood mouse, Pygmy shrew, Red fox, Irish stoat, Pine Marten, Badger and Bank vole). Since the survey, we have confirmed the presence of Red deer as well. The majority of the species present are native except for the Brown hare, the Bank vole and the American Mink. Declan’s recommendations are to continue the surveys to explore all species present on the estate and to determine population sizes. This will help in developing a relevant conservation programme that will take into account the breeding cycle of different animals,  disturbance-free zones, the prevention and spread of invasive species, and the development of educational programmes for employees and visitors.