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16 October 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
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Key Points

Rathlin island is situated 4 km off the north coast of County Antrim. It is a very important habitat for native wildlife and has been classified as a special protection area and special area of conservation.

Although Rathlin is only six km long and 4 km wide it has 30 km coast and contains a range of different coastal environments that support different ecosystems.

On the east and south of the island the coast slopes gently to the rocky shore.

To the north and west of island 100m basalt and chalk cliffs and stacks descend steeply into the sea. It is this inhospitable area that is favoured by the sea birds, and is home to many important breeding pairs of kittiwakes and guillemots.

Peregrine falcons also use the cliffs for their nesting sites.

Gulls and puffins were among the 66, 000 breeding birds recorded on the cliffs in 1985. These birds feed on a wealth of fish and fry that can be found in and around the shores.

The caves are also a breeding site for the common seals that can be seen basking at the mouth of the Island's only harbour.

Rathlin also has one of the best examples of reefs in Northern Ireland. Along the south-west coast, beneath the kelp forests, sea-cucumbers, sponges and red algae grow amongst the boulders.

The submerged caves on the north coast of the island are home to a range of sponges and anemones.

Humans are the biggest threat to most ecosystems. As Rathlin Island's human population has fallen to 68 the wildlife numbers have thrived.

For such a remote and barren area with a limited population, tourism has become the Island's most important economic activity. Many visitors are attracted to the island by the scenery and wildlife. As the visitor numbers increase more facilities and accommodation are needed. Any development of the island needs to be carefully managed to prevent the spoiling of the scenery and to protect the important wildlife habitats.

Rathlin has three wind turbines that produce electricity for the island. Wind power produces electricity in an environmentally friendly way with no waste gases. The land around the turbines can be used for farming, usually sheep grazing. Rathlin is a perfect place for wind generators because it is exposed to strong sea winds. Wind farms are comparatively expensive to run and can be considered noisy and ugly. But they provide the island with renewable energy that does not adversely affect the lives of the inhabitants or the important ecosystems of the island.

Rathlin Island contains a range of different coastal environments that support a range of ecosystems.

The island's 100m basalt and chalk cliffs support a wide range of breeding sea birds and Peregrine falcons

The birds feed on a wealth of fish and fry that can be found in and around the shores.

The caves are a breeding site for the common seals.

Along the south-west coast, beneath the kelp forests, sea-cucumbers, sponges and red algae grow amongst the boulders.

The submerged caves on the north coast of the island are home to a range of sponges and anemones.

Humans are the biggest threat to most ecosystems. As Rathlin Island's human population has fallen the wildlife hs thrived.



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