What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity means the whole variety of life on earth .  The word is a contraction of the phrase “biological diversity”, the term given to the variety of life on this planet. It reflects the number and variety of living organisms. Together biodiversity and life diversity makes the variety of life on earth.

Biodiversity Ireland

Ireland is 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.)

Biodiversity in Portrun

Portrun is located on the western shores of Lough Ree. Lough Ree is a designated proposed Natural Heritage Area (NHA) and Special Protection Area (SPA). The ecology of the area is of significance given the designation of Lough Ree. The lake itself is part of the Shannon system and covers approximately 10,500 hectares, making it the third largest lake in the state.

Its designation as an ecological habitat arises due to the importance of its aquatic, grassland and woodland habitats.

In botanical terms the lake is extremely rich with a number of nationally rare plant species recorded in the area.

Lough Ree is a haven for both wintering and breeding birds. The site has a range of breeding waterfowl, notably nationally important populations of Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye and Tufted duck.

The diversity of terrain in Portrun supports a variety of wildlife species, but is especially valuable for ground nesting birds.  The Common Tern which is now a rare species and protected by the EU Birds Directive nests in Portrun.

Lough Ree supports nationally important populations of seven wintering waterfowl species, as well as other important species including Whooper Swan which are listed on Annex I of E.U. Birds Directive which aims to protect all the 500 wild bird species habitant in the EU.  In winter an estimated 25,000 wildfowl from Greenland, Siberia and Northern Europe migrate to Lough Ree

These habitats, structures and features support species and add diversity to our community.


Dragonflies are common in the wetlands around Portrun, they feed on flies, midges and even each other. Species to be noted in Portrun during the summer months include Common Blue Damselfly, Ruddy Darter Dragonfly and.


Lough Ree is classed as a mixed fishery with good stocks of trout, pike and coarse fish present.


Although the Otter population is fast declining some have been spotted around Portrun Bay. This species is listed in the Red Data Book as being threatened in Europe and is protected under Annex II of the E.U. Habitats Directive.


The terrain around Portrun consists mostly of low lying fields which are prone to winter flooding resulting in “callows”, callowland provides good feeding ground for winterfowl. This wet grassland or callow mostly consists of poorly drained soil which is subject to seasonal flooding, the following can be found

  • Creeping buttercup, marsh thistle, silverweed, meadowsweet, water mint, cuckoo flower, marsh marigold, marsh bedstraw, water forget me not, common sedge, white clover, meadow grass, cowslip, adders tausse fern

In wetter flooded areas the following can be found

  • floating sweetgrass, marsh foxtail, yellowcress, yellowsedge, brownsedge, common spike rush,

Drier areas the following can be found

  • meadow thistle, rough meadow grass, oat grass, common knapweed, common sorrel, ribwort, plantiain

Scarce species

  • marsh pea, marsh stitchworth, summer snowflake, meadow barley,



  • kingfisher, skylark, sand martin, swallow, whinchat(summer callows), stonechat, grasshopper, warble, shoveler, mute swan, whooper swan, plover, scooter , cuckoo, mallard, great crested grebe, cormorant, greenland white fronted goose (particularly common in Portrun), widgen, teal, coote, golden eye, water rail, dunlin, snipe, black tailed godwit, common tern, cuckoo,


  • hen harrier, quail, corncrake, barn owl,( lapwing and curlew in decline),


  • pin tail, pochard, tufted duck, red shank, beewicks swan.


Plants of the callows plus semi natural grassland-shallow limestone soil-beets?, meadow grass, foxtail, timothy, fescues, sweet vernal grass, crested dog tail, cocls foot grass.


oak birch holly ash hazel.


Orchids-important orchid site which is a priority in the habitats directive, these include spotted orchid, meadow orchid, butterfly orchid, bee orchid found near Inch Mor.

Orchids-places that rarely flood and have exposed calserous rock and limestone pavements are found the green winged orchid, pyramidal orchid, fragrant orchid/where the ph is greater than 7.

  • flood plains and hedge swamps are in the boglands such as Clooncraff and Cloonmore.

Other inhabitants of the lake lands and surround

  • otters, white clawed cray fish (only species in Ireland)
  • bats-breeds of bats found locally-pipis, strelle, common, soprano, daubenton aka water bat
  • common frog, smooth newt, hedgehogs, mink, fox
  • Mayfly. Water louse, dragonfly


  • roach, bream, perch, brown trout, pollan (endangered), rudd, pike, ell, tench,
  • Zebra mussel threat (1997)-clogs water pipes and kills swan mussels