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The Plants and Wildlife of Ireland
Ireland was separated from the European mainland after the last Ice Age. As a result the island has a smaller range of flora and fauna than is found elsewhere in Europe.

In the Burren area, an Arctic-Alpine plants survive from the last glaciation. Ireland's bogs host a large variety of bog-moss species together with heather and sedges. In the south west (Cork and Kerry), there are areas rich in plants that thrive in the mildness and humidity of this region's climate.

The once extensive oak forests were cleared over most of the country by the seventeenth century. In recent decades a re-afforestation programme has favoured Sitka spruce, Scots, contorta and other pines, larches, Norway spruce and Douglas fir. There are nature reserves and national parks throughout the country.

Of some 380 species of wild birds recorded in Ireland, 135 breed in the country. There is considerable migration of birds to Ireland in spring and autumn, while several species arrive from Greenland and Iceland in winter; 75 per cent of the world's population of the Greenland whitefronted goose winter in Ireland.

Inland waters support colonies of swans, geese, waders, duck, tern and gulls. Game shooting is strictly controlled and State-assisted restocking programmes augment stocks of wild game birds. Among the more unusual species of bird are merlin, peregrine falcons, corncrake and chough.

Amphibians are represented by a single native species each of frog, toad (natterjack) and newt. There are no snakes and there is only one native reptile, the common lizard.

Freshwater species of fish include salmon, char, pollan, eel, pike and brown trout.

Mammals are similar to those found throughout the temperate regions of Europe. There are 31 species of mammals including red deer, fox, badger, red squirrel, otter, grey seals, common seals and many cetacean species. The Irish stoat and the Irish hare are interesting examples of native development.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for conservation in the Republic of Ireland. Most species of wild fauna and several species of wild flora are protected.

Conservation of wildlife habitats is achieved through the creation of nature reserves of which there are 75, together with 5 refuges for fauna and the designation of special protection areas for wild birds.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is also responsible for the development and management of national parks and nature reserves.

To date, five national parks have been established. All five meet international standards for national parks, conserving as they do outstanding parts of the natural heritage.

They are located at Killarney, Co. Kerry; Glenveagh, Co. Donegal; Connemara, Co. Galway; The Burren, Co. Clare; and the Wicklow Mountains, Co. Wicklow.

In recent years State forests have been opened to the public. There are 11 large forest parks and over 400 smaller amenities. Public access is generally limited to pedestrians.