HNV Farming & Biodiversity

Southwest Ulster and North Connacht (Ireland)

Natura site name: Ben Bulben, Gleniff and Glenade Complex
Natura Code: IE000623

Lying in the northwest corner of Ireland and straddling two provinces, Ulster and Connacht, this agricultural area high in semi-natural vegetation has been farmed since Neolithic times. It includes parts of counties Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Sligo and is divided by the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
It includes the terraced escarpments separated by deep glens of the Benbulbin range, the interlacement of drumlins and water of the Lough Erne lowland, the karstic phenomena of the Cavan/Fermanagh limestone grasslands and the Atlantic blanket bogs of south Donegal and Fermanagh.
Text & Photos: P. McGurn

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Suckler cows

Suckler cows

This is a pastoral area where permanent grassland is the main forage resource. Spring calving sucklers cows are the main livestock kept on family owned farms, with calves sold in the autumn for finishing in other parts of the country. In recent years continental type cattle have become the dominant breed.

Intensification

Intensification

Stocking rates are generally low and reflect the limited carrying capacity of the heavy clay soils. Through drainage and reseeding parts of the area have been intensified leading to a loss of semi-natural grassland but higher agricultural outputs for the farmer.

Hay making

Hay making

Hay making was the traditional method of conserving winter fodder. This has largely been replaced by silage production. However throughout the area some farmers still produce small amounts of hay, sometimes under agri-environment schemes.

Molinia Meadows

Molinia Meadows

The area contains diverse examples of Molinia caeruleaCirsium dissectum fen-meadow, ranging from Molinia-dominated swards with black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans to very herb-rich swards managed as hay meadows. Agricultural intensification, drainage and abandonment of pastoral systems have lead to a decline in the amount of this habitat.

Limestone pavement (8240)

Limestone pavement

Whilst the Burren and the Aran Islands are the main areas for limestone pavement in Ireland, this species-rich habitat also occurs in Southwest Ulster and North Connacht.

Orchid-rich grassland/Calcareous grassland (6210)

Orchid-rich grassland

These beautiful grasslands are found on dry, shallow, base-rich and nutrient-poor soils. They suffer from encroachment by hazel (Corylus avellana) when grazing is reduced.

Machair (21AO)

Machair

The coastal area contains a large parcel of intact Machair. This complex sand dune formation is globally restricted to the northwest coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

Marsh Fritillary

Marsh Fritillary

The Molinia Meadow community contains high covers of the plant Succisa pratensis, Devil’s-bit Scabious, which is the food source for the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly (Euphydryas aurina, Annex II).

Irish Hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus)

Irish Hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus)

The Irish hare is unique to Ireland. Our oldest surviving mammal has been present on the island since long before the last ice age (>10,000 years ago). The species is endangered and locally extinct. Irish hares occur in a wide range of habitats, but recent studies show it may not be able to survive in areas of intensive agriculture, which are mostly composed of ryegrass (Lolium spp.)

Narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth (Hemaris tityus)

Narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth Hemaris tityus

The Narrow-bordered bee hawkmoth is a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and can be found on damp, open species-rich grasslands of the region. The larvae feed most often on Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis, so occur in similar habitat to the Marsh Fritillary.

Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala)

Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala)

One of the relictual species of the early post-glacial tundra vegetation which occurred in Ireland after the ice sheets retreated some 12,000 years ago. It occurs on a number of sites on rocky outcrops in Fermanagh and Sligo.

Mossy Saxrifage (Saxifraga hypnoides)

Mossy Saxrifage (Saxifraga hypnoides)

On the rocky outcrops and cliffs of the upland areas a profusion of alpine plants occur, including some species not found elsewhere in Ireland. Alpine plants include Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) and Yellow Mountain Saxifrage (Saxifraga aizoides).


European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
Online: http://www.hnv-farming.eu/panorama/ulster-connacht/
Date: 2017/12/11
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