Rare European habitats on Aran islands to be protected under new EU project

Island farmers support initiative

Limestone landscape on three Aran Islands is to benefit from an EU programme. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Limestone landscape on three Aran Islands is to benefit from an EU programme. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 10:45

The fragile limestone landscape on the three Aran islands is to be protected under a new EU-funded programme which has already proved successful across the water in the Burren, Co Clare.

Farmers on all three islands have signed up to the AranLife project, worth almost €2.6 million, which was initiated on Inis Oírr yesterday by Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley.

AranLife aims to protect the rare European habitat types, including the orchid-rich grasslands, machair and limestone pavement, which are so prevalent on the islands.

Over 75 per cent of the total land area has been designated as Natura 2000 under the EU habitats directive.

The remaining 25 per cent of the land area is part of the “High Nature Value” farming system, but changing agricultural practices, including abandonment of land to scrub, has had a negative impact, Mr McGinley noted.

Successful work

Building on the work of the successful BurrenLife project, which supports sustainable land management practices, workshops were held with 48 Aran farmers to design a targeted project.

A project team of Patrick McGurn, Dr Amanda Browne and Gráinne Ní Chonghaíle was set up on Inis Oírr in January.

Stakeholders, including those responsible for tourism, have been involved in the design, as the Aran Islands attract up to 250,000 visitors annually. The project aims to facilitate “local solutions to local problems”, and has widespread support among the community, according to Inis Oírr development manager Paddy Crowe.

The EU-funded Life+ supports environmental projects across the European community, focusing on nature conservation, climate change, environmental policy, and information and communication. Total investment represents €556.4 million, of which the EU is providing €281.4 million. aranlife.ie