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Representation in Ireland

Farming on the edge of Europe

The EU-funded AranLIFE project blends scientific expertise with local farming practices to nurture the habitats of rare species of flora and fauna on the Aran Islands.

Connemara pony on the Aran Islands

Preserving traditional island farming practices

The iconic Aran landscape draws visitors from all over the world, so protecting the beauty and the quality of the islands is of utmost importance. Despite being only 46km2 in area (Phoenix Park is longer than the biggest island, Inis Mór!) the Aran Islands are home to 500 plant species – 50% of all Irish flora.

The Aran Islands contain 17 different increasingly rare habitat types listed in the EU Habitats Directive. The AranLIFE project, which ran for four years under the EU’s LIFE+ programme, worked with local farmers to support traditional island farming practices and help maintain the islands’ significant natural and cultural heritage. 


The AranLife project

AranLIFE Project Manager, Patrick McGurn says the project was set up to harness farmers’ local knowledge and combine it with expertise from scientists. The aim was to improve the quality of farm habitats on the Aran Islands.

“There are presently over 200 farm businesses on the islands, so agriculture is an important part of island life,” says Patrick.

The islands are also vital breeding grounds for several vital plant species, bird species such as the lapwing, and even varieties of butterflies and bees.
Patrick McGurn

“The farm plans were developed by the project team and the farmers who detailed the work to be done in each field and the associated cost of that work.”

The success of the project was only made possible through the €2.4 million funding under the EU’s LIFE+ programme. 

“Since the start of the project, we have successfully improved the conservation status of 35% of the priority habitats by developing the best management practices. Ireland’s off-shore islands have, and will have uncertainty in the future. However, they are very important aspects of Ireland’s culture and the AranLIFE project has been vital in highlighting the natural landscapes of the islands.”