|Zeigler, A.C., 1960
|The Republic of Ireland is a predominantly rural country, and its major environmental challenges involve agricultural practices. Farming has intensified in the past two decades, leading to increases in pesticide and fertilizer use, which in turn have increased chemical pollution in run-off, streams, and estuaries. Soil depletion and erosion are widespread. Parts of the Irish Sea are contaminated with nuclear waste discarded by the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland has relatively low biodiversity but a large number of unique habitats important to wildlife. Coastal regions contain many types of wetlands that are of great importance to waterfowl and other species. The most endangered biomes are blanket and raised bogs. These are natural wetlands that have been mined for centuries to supply peat, which is used as domestic fuel and to supply electric power facilites. Modern forestry operations have planted about 5 per cent of the land in exotic conifers, mostly on peatlands. Conservation of the remaining peatlands is a conservation priority of both the Republic of Ireland and the European Union (EU).
|Geography and Climate
The east coast of Ireland has few deep indentations. The west coast is fringed by submerged valleys, steep cliffs, and hundreds of small islands.
The chief physiographic features are a region of lowlands, occupying the central and east central sections, and a complex system of low mountain ranges, lying between the lowlands and the periphery of the island.
Due to the moderating influence of the prevailing warm, moist winds from the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland’s mean winter temperature ranges from 4° to 7°C, approximately 14°C higher than that of other places on the same latitude in the interior of Europe or on the eastern coast of North America. The oceanic influence is also very pronounced in summer: the mean temperature of 15° to 17°C is approximately 4°C lower than that of other places on the same latitudes. The rainfall averages 1,016 mm a year.
Ref. Microsoft, 1998
Numerous bogs and lakes are found in the central plain, or lowlands region. The principal rivers of Ireland are the Erne and the Shannon, which are actually chains of lakes joined by stretches of river.
The northern part of the central plain is drained by the River Erne, and the center of the plain is drained by the River Shannon, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean through a wide, lengthy estuary. Nearly half of the Shannon, above the estuary, is made up of three large lakes: Lough Allen, Lough Ree, and Lough Derg.
Ref. Microsoft, 1998