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Bedrohte Natur und Klimawandel

What changes are we facing?

Natural Hazards

With regard to natural hazards, Ireland experiences only very minor earthquakes as the island is on a passive margin of the European continental plate. There are no active volcanoes. Tsunamis could be triggered by offshore earthquakes or through landslides/ mass movement of sediment into water. These could impact coastal areas like the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 did. Though unlikely, there is tsunami monitoring happening in Ireland. Geological Survey Ireland is the National Contact Point for the UNESCO/IOC Tsunami Early Warning and Mitigation System for the Northeastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and Connected Seas (NEAMTWS). More information here.

The main natural hazards in Ireland are landslides and flooding, particularly groundwater flooding. These are both triggered by rainfall, and the climate predictions indicate that they will occur more often in future.


The uplands to the west of our region see regular occurrences of small-scale landslides with occasional larger events like the one that destroyed the stone bridge in the village of Leenane in 2007. Some of our sites of interest are under threat from such landslides that could either cover outcrops of interest or destroy unconsolidated sediment features (like the glacial lake delta in Leenane). Extensive recording and mapping of past landslide events alongside modelling of vulnerability (due to types of bedrock, soil, slope, etc) is carried out by Geological Survey Ireland with their data published regularly and accessible on an open viewer (more information here).


The threat from groundwater flooding is to the karst landscape on the eastern half of our region and is a major source of concern for houses and infrastructure. Huge efforts are being made to understand the three dimensional structure of the karst and the path flows of groundwater in the region to better predict and remedy future groundwater flooding events. This important work is carried out by Geological Survey Ireland and it also allows to track the source of pollutants in drinking water schemes both public and community based for the area (more information here). The Survey has developed a groundwater level monitoring network with 4 stations on the eastern side of our region that record the level every hour and publish the information here.

Climate change

The 6th assessment on climate change of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was published in early August 2021. Its findings are stark and further confirm climate predictions for the medium to long term and that humans are the drivers of this global change. Ireland and Europe will experience temperature rise at a faster pace than global average change. An increase of precipitation in winter with associated increase in flooding and sea-level rise – with more frequent storms caused by a warmer ocean (see regional fact sheet here) is predicted.

Our region will face such threats, including coastal damage for the Killary harbour area (Leenane village was flooded by storm Eleanor in January 2018), and an increase in groundwater flooding for the karst regions to the east of the western lakes. The increased precipitation will also be responsible for more landslides.

Biodiversity crisis

Climate change and cumulative human interaction with the landscape is also responsible for soil degradation and the current biodiversity crisis. This crisis includes the displacement of species of fauna and flora, habitat reduction due to invasive species and a general deterioration of various ecosystems with a dramatic loss of wilderness globally. Protection of designated areas is managed by National Parks and Wildlife Services (more info on designated areas in the region here).

In the region, there are two local European Innovation Partnerships (EIP-AGRI) which support local farmers to change their management to protect the environment. These are the Pearl Mussel Project, with participants in the catchments of the Bundorragha River in Mayo and the Owenriff and Dawros rivers in Galway, and the North Connemara Locally Led Agri-Environmental Scheme, with participants from the two Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) in the 12 Bens and Maumturks Mountain ranges in Galway.

Another project, entitled the Wild Atlantic Nature Life integrated project, aims at blanket bog protection on the SACs of the Irish western sea board and include large parts of the region. The Lough Carra Life project has just started, which will focus on protecting Lough Carra‘s water for the benefit of both its residents and the local wildlife.

Both Galway and Mayo County Councils have prepared and implemented biodiversity plans to raise awareness among people and communities. They also promote specific actions like the implementation of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, which aims to support the population of all native pollinators in Ireland at various scales from private gardens to national parks. Four communities in the region, Ballintubber (about to be published), Ballinrobe, Headford and Cong, have also developed their own Nature and Wildlife/Biodiversity action plans.

All-Ireland Pollinator Plan