Diverse Ireland

Ireland, at a latitude north of the equator of 53 degrees, has few extremes in climate due to the North Atlantic Drift. It is neither too warm nor too cold, neither too wet nor too dry. The average annual temperature is nine degrees and average rainfall varies between about 800 and 2,800 mmm from east to west. Rising sea levels after the last Ice Age affected species migration into the country, and as a result Ireland has only two thirds of the biodiversity of Britain.

In terms of Irish biodiversity there are estimated:

  • 812 species of  flowering plants;
  • 3 native conifers;
  • 1,108 alien seed plants;
  • 78 native ferns;
  • Over 700 mosses and liverworts;
  • 3,500 fungi and 150 lichenicolous fungi;
  • 957 lichens;
  • Algae -700 - 1,000 desmids (freshwater), 579 (Marine).

In the animal kingdom there are approximately:

  • Thirty-five terrestrial mammals;
  • Nine bat species;
  • Two types of seals;
  • Twenty four whale and dolphin species.

Of the 450 bird species recorded in Ireland, about half of these breed here. The Red Grouse, Irish Jay, Dipper and Coal Tit have distinctive characteristics which are unique to Ireland. 

The Viviparous Lizard is Ireland's only land reptile, joined recently by the Slow Worm, which has been introduced in the Burren. Ireland is also home to three amphibians: the Smooth Newt, the Common Frog and the Natterjack Toad.

Ireland also has approximately 16,000 invertebrates, the most famous of which is the Kerry Slug (Geomalacus maculosus), and twenty-eight freshwater fish species.

(Sources: EPA; Botanic Gardens; Birdwatch Ireland; and DAHGI.)

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