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20 April 2014
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Coasts Mountains, Lakes & Rivers Settlement Land Use & Economic Activity Ecosystems
Breen Wood Rathlin Island Lough Neagh Cuilcagh Mountains Strangford Lough
Lough Neagh clipWatch Video Map

Script

Key Points

Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the U.K. It is in the centre of Northern Ireland and five out of our six counties share part of the edge of the lake. A third of all rainwater that falls in Northern Ireland drains into Lough Neagh.

As well as being an important wildlife habitat, the lake has many economic uses. Its main use is as a reservoir to supply water to Belfast and other settlements. The water level in Lough Neagh has been lowered by just over a metre to allow water to be drawn off for drinking. The lake's other economic uses include fishing, sand extraction and leisure and tourism.

Lough Neagh is an example of a wetland ecosystem. The site is registered as a special protection area because it supports large numbers of breeding and wintering birds.

The 80 islands on the Lough form part of a nature reserve. The islands provide safe nesting sites for a range of wetland birds. Cut off from the land they offer protection from common predators such as foxes, rats and dogs.

Competition for these nesting sites is strong among the breeding birds that include mute swans, gulls, terns, ducks, great-crested grebes, curlews and lapwings.

In winter the site supports a range of 20 000 waterfowl. There are large numbers of migrating birds which feed along the Lough shores including important numbers of rare wintering swans.

The Lough hosts one of the few remaining populations of Pollan. A rare species of fish that has lived in the lake since the ice age.

Zebra mussels have been found in the Lough. These foreign mussels interfere with the nutrient cycles of marine ecosystems. The shell fish are thought to pose a threat to the Lough's bird and fish populations as well as affecting fishing vessels and sand extraction.

Farming can threaten the balance of a wetland ecosystem. Wetlands areas are often drained for use as farmland. But the biggest threat posed by agriculture is water pollution. Fertilizers and animal waste from farms seep into the ground and run off into the Lough. These chemicals cause Algal bloom reducing oxygen levels in the water and killing some fish.

1 million tonnes of sand are dredged up from the bottom of the Lough each year. There is a limited amount of sand in the Lough. No one knows the long term impact of sand extraction from Lough Neagh. The sand quarries can be seen as destroying the beauty of the area, as well as posing a potential threat to the wetland ecosystem.

Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in the U.K.

The Lough's main use is as a reservoir to supply water to Belfast and other settlements.

Lough Neagh is an example of a wetland ecosystem which supports large numbers of breeding and wintering birds.

The Lough hosts one of the few remaining populations of Pollan. A rare species of fish that has lived in the lake since the ice age.

Zebra mussels interfere with the nutrient cycles of marine ecosystems pose a threat to the Lough's bird and fish populations.

Economic activities such as farming and sand extraction pose a potential threat to the wetland ecosystem.



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