Úna Fitzpatrick
The identification of Important Plant Areas (IPAs) is a global initiative promoted by Plantlife InternationalIPAs are natural or semi-natural sites exhibiting exceptional botanical richness and/or supporting an outstanding assemblage of rare, threatened and/or endemic plant species and/or vegetation of high botanical value. They provide the framework for the implementation of Target 5 of the Convention on Biological Diversity's Global Strategy for Plant Conservation - protection of 50% of the world's most important areas for plant diversity assured by 2010. IPAs are not legal site designations but are a framework for identifying and highlighting the very best sites for plants and fungi, which can be used to support conservation actions and initiatives. The selection of sites follows international and regional guidelines to ensure consistency and is based on three criteria: threatened species, species richness/diversity and threatened habitats. 
Plantlife are currently promoting the selection of IPAs within Britain and to date around 150 IPAs have been identified across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The National Strategy for Plant Conservation in Ireland (target 5 - protection of the most important areas for plant diversity assured) states that methodology and criteria for recognising Important Areas for Plant Diversity (IAPDs) in the Republic of Ireland will be developed and used to identify these areas by 2010.  

Plantlife do not promote the development of IPAs below the regional level. We have independently adapted the international/regional methodology for use at a local level. This is not intended to interfere with methodology that may be developed to identify Important Areas for Plant Diversity (IAPDs) within the Republic of Ireland, nor will there necessarily be overlap between IAPDs in Ireland and local IPA sites.   Here, advantage has been taken of an existing framework to create a standardised method of identifying important areas for plants that can be promoted at the local authority level. 

 Within County Waterford, Important Plant Areas have been interpreted as areas that represent important refuges for native plants within the county.   Using methodology developed by the authors, they fall into three types:

  1. Areas that support species threatened with extinction from the county
  2. Areas that support a diverse and interesting flora (plant ‘hotspots’)
  3.  Areas of high quality natural or semi-natural habitat based on numbers of plant indicator species present.