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The sustainable management of terrestrial habitats of the Aran Islands.

The AranLIFE project is a demonstration project and represents the only large-scale, action-based nature conservation initiative ever to have been planned for the Aran Islands. The project will work with local farmers to support traditional island farming practices and maintain the islands’ significant natural and cultural heritage. The project was made possible through €2.4 million funding under the EU’s LIFE+ programme and will run for 4 years from 2014.

The AranLIFE Project is an integrated project between the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Heritage Council, the European Forum for Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, Institute of Technology Sligo, Teagasc, and the farming communities of the three Aran Islands.

The communities of the Aran Islands have lived in and farmed the islands for centuries. Their traditional farming practices have been central in creating the iconic Aran landscape, and maintaining its natural heritage, which draws visitors from all over Ireland and the world. The islands are of such high value for nature that over 75% of the land area has been legally designated as Natura 2000 sites under European legislation. However, working with these designations, the small nature of island farms and the high labour input required means that farming on the islands faces many challenges. While many farmers clearly wish to continue practices handed down over generations the early impacts of a reduction in farming activity are becoming evident, in the form of under-grazed pastures and overgrown fields. Traditional knowledge and practices are also being used less and the AranLIFE project will assist and encourage farmers to reverse this trend. These changes are affecting the Islands’ significant natural heritage, including its limestone pavement and orchid-rich grasslands, and will affect the social and economic fabric of the islands.

The AranLIFE project has been set up to tackle some of these challenges, working closely with the farming communities, increasing awareness of the natural heritage of the islands, leading to an improvement in the condition of the Nature 2000 sites, and turning the designations from a challenge to an opportunity.

For further information, contact Dr Daire Ó hUallacháin (daire.ohuallachain[at]teagasc.ie) Tuilleadh eolas daire.ohuallachain.ie