|Biodiversity is the total variety of all living things. It ranges from microscopic organisms to our largest trees and mammals. Domesticated plants and animals are as much a part of biodiversity as wild ones.
The threats to world biodiversity resulted in 178 counties, including the UK and Ireland, signing the biodiversity convention in 1992 committing them to develop national strategies for its conservation. To begin fulfilling this commitment, the UK Biodiversity action plan was published in 1994 and addresses national and global issues.
The Northern Ireland Biodiversity group was appointed in 1995 to develop proposals for Northern Ireland.
What are the proposals?
These proposals for a Northern Ireland Biodiversity strategy are intended to inform policy and promote action on biodiversity conservation in Northern Ireland by:
> Identifying the main features of biodiversity in Northern Ireland
> Identifying the main issues affecting biodiversity, including institutional, political and legal issues.
> Proposing measures to support the conservation of biodiversity for the period 1999-2014.
The strategy describes the major biodiversity assets of Northern Ireland. The total number of species occurring in Northern Ireland is limited although there are unique genetic varieties of some species (some as the pollen and Irish hare) and there is a rich bryophyte and lichen flora associated with our mild wet climate.
Through this audit 20 habitats and 213 species or group of species are identified as priorities for conservation action in Northern Ireland.
The strategy identifies 14 main issues affecting biodiversity in Northern Ireland, which are addressed in 70 proposals. It is proposed that government should take the lead in their implementations, however they are not directed solely at government level. There is a wider responsibility on society as a whole and an important part for many of its different component sectors to play.
Bio diversity in Mourne
The uplands of the Mourne area contain one of the best-developed areas of heath land in Europe. All of these are proposed as NI priority habitats the strategy. These habitats hold several proposed NI priority species including red grouse, keeled skimmer, jumpier, Irish ladies tresses orchid and the moss camplopus setifolius. Sheep grazing is the main farming activity on the upland grasses and heaths and over-grazing by sheep presents a major threat to these habitats and species. On the upland margins, agricultural reclamation has resulted in significant losses of lowland heath.
The lowlands and upland margins in the area contain some important oak woodlands, river, and fens. Priority species occurring there include the red squirrel which is being replaced by the introduced Grey squirrel elsewhere.
The Mourne coast includes a mixture of hand and soft cliffs and inter-tidal and sub-tidal sediments. The salt marsh at Mill Bay in Carling ford Lough is the largest example of this habitat in Northern Ireland.
The area is also rich in marine life. Inter-tidal reefs at Glassdrumman represent the best Northern Ireland example of this UK priority habitat. Carling ford Lough has an exceptional range of inter-tidal and sub-tidal habitats found on rocks and a range of sediment types including marine communities and species found elsewhere in Northern Ireland. In addition, the islands in the Lough are internationally important for breeding terns including the rare Roseate Tern and wintering waterfowl such as the Light-Bellied Brent Goose.
Coastal and marine habitats can be affected by a range of impacts resulting from coastal development, recreation activity and sea defences.