Biodiversity refers to the variety of living things that share this planet with us.  The pressures that we exert on the environment are often reflected in damage to, or destruction of, other living things and so the state of our biodiversity reflects in a general way the state of our environment overall. 

See separate article on Biodiversity for more information.

Habitats and Species

Habitats refer to the places where species live.  Ireland has many different habitats, some of which are rare elsewhere in the world.  These include peat bogs, limestone pavement such as the Burren in Co. Clare and sand dunes and machairs (flat sandy plains on the north and west coasts).  Because it was separated from mainland Europe a long time ago Ireland has a relatively small number of species but some species found here are not found anywhere else in the world. 

A National Biodiversity Plan was published in 2002 and a National Biodiversity Data Centre was established in 2007 for the collection, collation, management and presentation of data on Ireland 's biological diversity. ‘Actions for Biodiversity 2011-2016’, Ireland’s 2nd National Biodiversity Plan, was launched on 9 November 2011 and can be accessed here.

Habitats and species are protected by EU legislation and member states are required to designate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to protect important habitats and species, and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to protect birds in particular.  The legal basis on which SACs are selected and designated is the EU Habitats Directive.  The Directive lists certain habitats and species that must be protected within SACs (NPWS, 2013). When compared to other EU member states, Ireland has designated a small proportion of the country as SACs or SPAs. Indeed, some of the protected habitats and species are under significant pressure already and are classified as being of bad conservation status. As such, the protection of Ireland ’s habitats and species is one of the major environmental challenges facing the country.

A summary of Ireland ’s biodiversity is shown below.

Ireland's Biodiversity - Estimated Number of Species
Courtesy EPA

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