Northern Ireland is characterised by its extensive areas of grassland, upland and wetland habitats which at a landscape scale result in unique habitat mosaics. There are a wide variety of ecologically diverse habitats including calcareous grassland, blanket bog, limestone pavement and dry heath. Upland habitats are found mainly within the Antrim Plateau in the North-east, the Mourne Mountains in the south and the Sperrin Mountains in the north-west. A proportion of the remaining bog area in Europe can be found in Northern Ireland and the UK’s largest inland lake is also found here, Lough Neagh. There are pockets of biodiverse rich fens, marshes and reedbeds scattered across the country and large areas of ecologically important sand dune systems on the north and east coasts.
As yet, Northern Ireland’s invertebrate fauna is poorly known, as demonstrated by the discovery in 1981 of a damselfly, now named the Irish Damselfly (Coenagrion lunulatum). Currently found at 35 sites in Northern Ireland, it’s worrying that some colonies are already extinct. The Irish damselfly isn’t found in Britain, so in terms of the UK, the future of such species lies solely in the responsibility of Northern Ireland policies and actions. Northern Ireland is home to many nationally rare and threatened bee species and supports the largest population in the UK of Northern Colletes (Colletes floralis) a UK BAP species. Important populations of the Globally threatened White clawed crayfish and freshwater pearl mussel can be found here. Three Annex ll species of whorl snail can also be found in Northern Ireland; Geyer’s whorl snail (Vertigo geyeri), Narrow-mouthed whorl snail (V. angustior) and Desmoulin’s whorl snail (V. moulinsiana).
Northern colletes (Colletes floralis) at Portstewart Strand © Anna Hart
Work in Northern Ireland
Buglife delivers a variety of projects to ensure the long-term survival of invertebrates in Northern Ireland. We have mapped the B-Lines network and helped to deliver the Pollinator Monitoring Scheme’s Flower Insect Timed Counts (FIT) as well as other actions of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Over the last four years Buglife have been involved in monitoring and assessment of protected sites and species across Northern Ireland. Our priorities include identifying invertebrate-rich brownfield sites and investigating the measures currently in place to protect Priority invertebrate species.
Recent species focused projects have included targeted surveys of Northern colletes and Narrow- mouthed whorl snail on the North Coast for the National Trust and of the Zircon reed beetle (Donacia aquatica) in Upper Lough Erne for the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership. We completed “The Northern Ireland Threatened Bee Report” and a report on the “Terrestrial and Freshwater Invertebrates At Risk Of Extinction In Northern Ireland Within The Next 20 Years”. We aim to use these reports to raise awareness of the plight of our most seriously threatened invertebrates.
Mournes (c) Anna Hart
Through our project work we have engaged with thousands of people through talks, workshops, bug walks and other events to raise awareness of the importance of invertebrates, the free services they provide and how we can all do our bit to help them. In the future we aim to create, enhance and better manage grasslands, peat bogs, brownfield sites and many other habitats across Northern Ireland for invertebrates.
Follow Buglife Northern Ireland on Twitter for updates on our project work.
Students from St Kevins College on the hunt for the elusive Zircon reed beetle (Donacia aquatica) at Crom Estate. (c) Anna Hart