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  Handing on
our Heritage

Convention on Biological Diversity


The Convention on Biological Diversity 1992 (UNCED 1992) was a significant outcome of the UNEP Earth Summit held in Rio Janeiro in 1992. At least 175 countries are signatories to the Convention. Article 14 of the Convention requires an EIA for policies and projects that are likely to have significant adverse effects on biological diversity.


The Ramsar Convention


The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971) came into force in 1975 and is concerned with wetlands, particularly those of importance for waterfowl. Contracting Parties are required to designate sites - ‘Ramsar Sites’. In Europe, these cover over 5 million ha.


The Convention includes a stringent condition with respect to development:


"designate alternative sites of the original habitat type should the development of any of the presently designated sites become necessary in the urgent national interest".


Bern Convention


The Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats, known as the Bern Convention (1979), aims to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats, especially those species and habitats whose conservation requires the co-operation of several States, and to promote such co-operation. Particular emphasis is given to endangered and vulnerable species, including endangered and vulnerable migratory species. Signatories to the Convention must implement measures to maintain populations of wild flora and fauna. (Council of Europe 1996) Such listed habitats and species should be considered in the planning, design and implementation of transport schemes.


Areas of Special Conservation Interest are established through the Bern Convention 1979. The network of these areas is known as the Emerald Network (Council of Europe 1989). The network makes special reference to transport routes and the need to safeguard crossing routes for migrating animals.


World Heritage Convention


Other international designations protecting habitats or areas of landscape include sites nominated under the World Heritage Convention, adopted by United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1972. The Convention includes Natural and Cultural Sites as well as more recently combined works of ‘nature and man’-Cultural Landscapes. Within Europe there are some 15 natural sites. Mainly on account of the prestigious nature (rather than legal) of such a designation the Convention has assisted in the prevention of damage of designated sites (IUCN 1994 Parks for Life) and as such may have political implications in the planning of transport infrastructure.


Biosphere Reserves and other designations


A world network of biosphere reserves has been designated under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme 1971. The reserves represent the world’s major biological diversity regions. They are selected on a number of defined criteria and under Article 9 of the Statutory Framework each reserve is subject to a review on a ten-year cycle. Following the Review, if the reserve does not satisfy the criteria it can be excluded from the network, for example as a result of significant detrimental changes from a transport route.


The European Diploma of Protected Areas is an award given to protected areas on account of their outstanding landscape or biological diversity and the efficiency of their protection system. This prestigious award is reviewed every five years and can assist in the protection of sites (Council of Europe 1965).


The Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea are associated with two separate conventions (Helsinki Conventions Helsinki Convention (1974) and Barcelona Convention (1976/1995) and Geneva/Barcelona Protocol (1982 & 1995)). These establish a system of coastal and marine protected areas to conserve biological diversity.


National legislation


At a national level there is a range of legislation providing varying degrees of protection for landscapes, habitats and individual species (ICUN 1992), and Council of Europe 2000). Such legislation may encompass a series of national parks and nature reserves including those on a very local level of importance, and other protected landscapes with an estimated 10,000-20,000 across Europe.


The IUCN World Conservation Union has provided an international classification system for protected areas defined as:


"Area of land and /or sea especially dedicated to the protection of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means." (IUCN 1994)


These areas have been classified into six management categories. Category II National Parks, Category IV Habitat/Species Management Area, and Category V Protected Landscape are those most used in Europe. In spite of such status, many legally protected areas are under strong pressure from development proposals including transport schemes but also from inadequate management (IUCN 1994 Parks for Life). Their ultimate protection from adverse development is dependent on the robustness of the legal system, including the application as appropriate of the Habitats, or Birds Directives, the EIA process, for example the European Union can enforce these Directives.


Pan-European Ecological Network


Valued landscapes and habitats are not restricted to protected areas and there is a need to consider the wider countryside. In this respect, the Pan-European Network was established to form a network of linked areas to ensure the favourable conservation status of traditional landscapes, habitats and species. It was set up as part of the Pan-European Landscape and Biological Diversity Strategy and aims to encourage the coherence and complementarity of the different networks in an ambitious initiative which covers the entire pan-European geographical area and which brings together diverse partners at the different decision levels. The Network is made up of three tiers: core areas, corridors and buffer zones.


Transport networks provide an opportunity to form sections of the corridor and/or buffer areas, in particular by adapting the associated green estate to form specified habitats. Such opportunities can apply to proposed and existing schemes and in both cases landscape management is likely to be a critical issue. To some extent the realising of such opportunities may partly offset other negative effects directly, or indirectly arising from transport schemes.


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