Biodiversity or biological diversity simply refers to the variety of all living things on earth and includes people, plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms. Biodiversity is everywhere and all around us in Mayo, from gardens to farmland, peatlands to woodlands, rivers to coastlines. We all interact with biodiversity and the living environment every day as we go about our daily lives. There are many ways to enjoy the rich marine natural heritage and biodiversity of the county; playing on the beach, fishing, boating, seaweed harvesting, whale watching, bird watching etc.
A healthy environment is important for human health and well-being. Many people consider that nature provides us with spiritual, emotional and physical benefits, and thus improves our quality of life. It is also important to conserve our biodiversity for future generations. Our children should be able to enjoy the sight of an Atlantic salmon jumping in the River Moy or a Barnacle goose grazing on a coastal marsh.
The conservation of biodiversity and natural heritage is an integral part of good environmental management and sustainability. Tourism and fisheries are particularly important for Mayo’s economy and the protection of the rich natural heritage of Mayo is key for maintaining these sectors in a healthy state. Along with sites designated for nature conservation, Mayo has many other areas of marine ecological importance including salt marshes, sand dunes & machair, mud flats, sandy beaches, reed beds etc. County Mayo is home to several rare, protected and/or threatened plants and animals including the Great Yellow Bumblebee, Corncrake, Risso’s dolphin, bottle-nosed dolphin and the fin whale. Mayo is also an area of national and international importance for wintering sea birds and geese.
Some of the most diverse habitats are found in the many estuaries along the long and varied coast of Mayo. The constant ebb and flow of the tides ensure a mixing of sea and fresh water, which in turn leads to variable salinity and depth. Estuaries are important nursery areas for fish, as well as providing a habitat for many shellfish and marine invertebrates. Marine invertebrates in turn provide a food source for breeding, wintering and migrating waders and wildfowl (e.g. golden plover, bar-tailed godwit, lapwing, curlew and redshank). Estuaries are also important for mammals such as seals and otter.
Rocky shores include those formed of solid rock (bedrock) or loose rock (boulders and cobbles). Some of Ireland’s highest rocky sea cliffs are found on Mayo’s west coast, on Achill Island and Clare Island. Other spectacular sea cliffs can be found at Erris Head, Benwee Head. Nesting sea birds including fulmar, kittiwake, puffins, razorbills, choughs, peregrine falcons and guillemots. Rocky shores are also important for marine invertebrates particularly the inter-tidal zones. These areas provide food for many of our smaller water birds such as turnstones, oystercatchers and ringed plover. Shorelines are also important for breeding Terns and Ringed Plovers.