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20 February 2015
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These television programmes are designed to support the KS2 Geography curriculum. The series examines the interdependence of humans and physical environments and has an issue-based approach.
About the Programme
Programme 7 - Lough Neagh
Friday, 8 March 2002

ARCHIVE - SELB programme code :

This episode is now part of our archive. This programme is still available to schools to borrow or purchase from the Audio Visual Recording service at the SELB. Please quote the SELB programme code in your correspondence. See our ordering page for more information.

Image of Lough Neagh FlyThe programme is divided into three sections, ‘Under the Lough’, ‘On the Lough’ and ‘People and the Lough’. This is to provide an opportunity to pause the programme for more in-depth discussion, if desired. In this programme the presenter, Donna Traynor, explores how different forms of life all have their part to play in the food chain. She stresses how dependent each element of the chain is on the other and highlights how fragile such dependence can be. The viewer is taken on a journey looking at the variety of plant and animal life making up the local environment. Donna traces the various links in the chain from algae to humans. She also discovers how humans have affected the lough, highlighting the constant threat of pollution. The points made during the programme could equally apply to an environmental understanding of other natural habitats.

Under the Lough

In this section we take a trip under the lough to discover an underwater world that is teeming with life. It is here that we start to explore the notion of a food chain. Donna explains that, to understand how all life around the lough is connected, we must start by looking at the first link in the food chain - algae. Donna makes the point that algae, although very small, are the main food source for the millions of small animals and insects that live on the lough bed. These, in turn, become food for fish and bird-life. During this section we see examples of different insects and fish that live under the lough.

On the Lough

Image of sailing on Lough NeaghLife on the lough’s shoreline is as interesting and varied as life below. In this section Donna illustrates the importance of the plants around Lough Neagh, not just as a source of food but as a habitat. She explains that there are three types of plants that live in and around the lough; submerged plants (which live underwater), water margin plants (which live half in and half out of the water) and marsh plants (which like to live in ground that is wet all year round). We see how these plants provide homes for insects, animals and birds.

The programme explains why, during winter, Lough Neagh attracts the largest number of wildfowl in the British Isles (up to 100,000). These birds, mostly ducks, come from Iceland, Russia and Scandinavia. Donna then takes a trip to one of the hundred islands that are dotted throughout Lough Neagh. Most of these islands are part of the Lough Neagh National Nature Reserves which are managed by nature wardens. They protect the thousands of rare birds that breed on the islands.

People and the Lough

In this final section Donna looks at the relationship humans have had with the lough, including their part in the food chain. For 8000 years people have lived around the lough and in that time they have brought about many changes. We examine those changes and their effects on the environment. Donna looks at industry on the lough in the form of tourism, fishing and sand dredging. She also examines the environmental changes that people have created; how we have lowered the water level in the lough to control flooding, how we use the lough’s water to drink, how we pump our waste into it and how we have increased pollution levels in the lough. The programme ends by suggesting that it is the responsibility of people to ensure that the lough stays healthy so as not to harm the animal and plant-life.
Before the Programme

  • Discuss the key words: Food Chain, Habitat, Pollution, Migrate, Sewage.
  • Look at maps of Northern Ireland and of the World. Locate Lough Neagh on a map of Northern Ireland. Use Ordnance Survey Holiday Map : North 1 : 250,000.
  • Discuss the proximity of the lough to members of the class. Do they know anybody who fishes in it, bird watches, windsurfs etc.?

After the Programme

  • Image of Lough NeaghDraw a food chain involving algae, insects, fish, and humans.
  • On a world map show where the visitors to Lough Neagh come from (e.g. Eels from the Sargasso Sea; birds from Iceland, Russia, Scandinavia; tourists).
  • In the programme you will see a number of birds diving beneath the water. Ask the class why these birds dive to the lough bed and for what?
  • Discuss pollution and how it might upset the food chain.
  • Discuss what effect this pollution might have on jobs around the lough?
  • Ask the class what measures they would take to control the amount of pollution getting into the lough.
  • Although the level of water in the lough has been lowered by 3 metres, farmers on the south coast of the lough would like it reduced further. This would allow them to reclaim many acres of land for grazing. What effect do they think this would have on the insect, animal and bird life?
  • Split the class into groups, each group representing people who would have an interest in a proposal such as this, eg. bird watchers, local council, water service, local residents, farmers etc. Each group must research and then discuss what effect the proposal would have on them. Debate the issue and come to a conclusion - should the proposal go ahead?
  • If any of the class live in Belfast, Armagh, Antrim, Portadown, Craigavon, Lurgan, Banbridge, Ballymena, Larne and Glengormley, then they may be drinking water that comes from Lough Neagh. There are plans to increase the amount of water we take from Lough Neagh. How does the class think this might affect the lough?
  1. Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake in Great Britain and Ireland. It is also the seventh largest lake in Europe.
  2. Five of Northern Ireland’s six counties border its shores. They are Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone and Londonderry.
  3. Six rivers flow into Lough Neagh and they spread throughout most of Northern Ireland. The river MAIN and the SIX MILE WATER come from the Antrim plateau to the North-East. The MOYOLA and BALLINDERRY rivers flow from the Sperrins in the west. The UPPER BANN starts in the Mournes to the south east and the river BLACKWATER begins life to the south in county Monaghan.
  4. Lough Neagh has only one outlet, the LOWER BANN, which flows out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Pollution and the Lough

Image of pollution on Lough NeaghVarious studies of Lough Neagh’s water have shown that since the turn of the century, when people first started to pump their waste into the lough, it has slowly become polluted. The pollution takes the form of a slow build up of normally harmless nutrients (any substance which provides nourishment), called phosphates. Phosphates are a form of plant food which encourage the growth of vast amounts of algae. When the algae die, like all living things they decay. Unfortunately it is this process of decay which uses up most of the oxygen in the water. This can cause the death of fish and insect life. The only way to solve this problem is to lower the amount of phosphate getting into the lough.

Phosphates enter the lough from three different sources: domestic, agricultural and industrial waste. Although sewage is treated to ensure that very little phosphate finds its way into the lough, this was not always the case. In the past people only partially treated their sewage, which is high in dissolved nutrients, and this is exactly what algae require to grow.

The most common cause of pollution is the escape of silage effluent and other farm waste into rivers. Another threat comes from agricultural fertilizers which are used by farmers to add nutrients to their land. Over many years the soil itself has become so rich in these nutrients that when it rains, they are washed out into the watercourses which flow into Lough Neagh. Industrial spillage remains a threat but most companies have very strict guidelines to ensure that this remains a rare occurrence.
Further Resources
Visit The Lough Neagh Discovery Centre.

Oxford Island National Nature Reserve
Oxford Island, Craigavon
Co. Armagh BT66 6NJ
Contact Number: (028) 3832 2205.


A series of free factsheets relating to natural habitats are available from:

The Environment Service
Commonwealth House
35 Castle Street
Belfast BT1 1GU

Geography Programmes
Programme 1:
Strating Grid:
Programme 2:
Here and There:
Programme 3:
Go with the Flow
Programme 4:
Green Power
Programme 5:
Sustainable Development
Programme 6:
In the Balance
Programme 7:
Lough Neagh
Programme 8:
Programme 9:
Extreme Weather
Can't find your subject? Visit our archive section where you can find programmes supporting other curricular subjects, including: Geography, History, Citizenship and English.

Visit the archive.

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