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Turloughs, western Ireland
Overall geographical setting
Limestone karst in West of Ireland
Geology - soil
glacial deposits range from 0-3m depth. Mostly lime-rich and gleyed due to flooding regime
Climate: mild oceanic
Mainly low fen – grassland Depending on soils and hydrology, as well as grazing management, plant communities vary from sedge-rich fen communities to wet grassland. Sedges are small in size and include Carex flacca, C. panicea, C. nigra, C. hostinan and C. flava agg. Grasses include Agrostis stolonifera and Poa pratensis. Forbs are abundant and consits of fen species such as Galium palustre, Cirsium dissectum, Ranunculus repens and.....Mosses are characteristic of turloguh basins with Drepanocladus and Calliergon species predominating. Typically defining the presence of a turlough, is the mosss, Cinclidotus fontinaloides. It covers rocks and shrubs or trees, the latter delineating the upper limit of winter flooding.Turlough basins may have almost permanent water and support aquatic macrophytes and some have reed beds with Phragmites australis or Schoenoplectus lacustris
As part of the cutlural landscape, domestic cattle, sheep, horses and goats are grazed during the dry periods, mostly April-Septemeber.
No resident mammals, but winter populations of birds, such as Whooper and Bewicks’ swans, wigeon and Greenland white-fronted geese Anser albifrons.
A rich invertebrate fauna is under-recorded. But some rare beetles such as Agonum lugens, A. livens, Badister meridionalis, Blethisa multipunctata and Pelophila borealis are recorded for several turloughs (Moran et al. in press, Regan et al. in prep.).
Biodiversity & trends
Turloughs support a species-rich flora: usually as a mosaic of diverse communities, related to periods of flooding within the turlough basin.They vary, within one site, from sedge-rich fen & wet grassland to limestone pavement and scrub/flood woodland.
Some are rare EU-wide and Lepidoptera ,Coleoptera and some Diptera are the only groups studied in detail: many Red Data book and rare species.
Drainage has depleted the number of turloughs since the 19th century and still poses a threat. Other trends include fertilising that reduces plant diversity especially. Under-grazing, through land abandonemt may be a future threat if the farming system is not maintianed in a sustainable way for farmers.