Ireland is home to about 815 flowering plants, about 80 native ferns, more than 700 mosses and liverworts, 3,500 fungi, over 1,000 lichens and 1,400 algae. There are 32 terrestrial mammals, ten bat species, two species of seals and about 24 whales and dolphins. About 425 species of birds have been recorded in Ireland, about half of these birds breed here.
Many of these species are already under threat, some are even endangered. The freshwater pearl mussel, which lives in Irish rivers and is Ireland’s longest living animal and is facing extinction. If we want all of these species to survive, we must ensure that there are enough suitable areas for all to flourish.
Ireland also has an extensive coastline rich in biodiversity and so we should not forget our surrounding seas. There is a huge array of life in our seas, most of which we may never see. Unfortunately, this too is being negatively affected in a variety of ways; overfishing, coastal activities and pollution are some examples, and so it is important that our marine habitats are also protected.
The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) looks after the conservation of much of Ireland’s habitats and species. Ireland has six National Parks: Glenveagh, Co. Donegal, Ballycroy, Co. Mayo, Connemara, Co. Galway, the Burren, Co. Clare, the Wicklow Mts. and Killarney, Co. Kerry.
Visit the NPWS website to learn about the various protected sites in Ireland and why they are so important. More >>
Reductions in Ireland’s biodiversity will have serious economic and social consequences. In 2001, Ireland agreed along with other EU countries, to ‘halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010’. This has recently been extended to 2020. In order to achieve this we need to make a concerted effort on a local and national level. Individuals, schools and communities can all play their part in halting this alarming loss of biodiversity. Ireland has come a long way in the past decade but we are still a long way off. Failure to protect our most endangered natural habitats and species will result in substantial fines for Ireland by the EU.