Flora and Fauna

Flora and fauna of the Shannon
The Shannon provides many different habitats for a wide variety of species of flora including some rare and very interesting plants. Some, which can be found in this area, include various types of algae, reeds and grasses. The Shannon offers a good cross-section of the fauna of Ireland. There are brown hares, foxes, mink and frogs etc. As regards insects, there are butterflies, dragonflies, beetles and in the Shannon; mussels, snails and leeches. Many different varieties of birds live on the Shannon such as swans (Berwicks, Mute and Whooper), moorhens, swallows, terns, ducks and the midlands are especially noted for corncrakes .

Flora and fauna of the callowland
The hay meadows of the callows are made up of grasses and sedges, meadowsweet, ragged robin, meadow bedstraw, the rare marsh pea, purple lousewort and the common buttercup. In drier parts purple moor grass forms dense tussocks. The callows are an important habitat for birds in summer and winter: in summer skylarks, meadow pipits and the now rare corncrake live; in winter, when the river floods and increases in breath tenfold, the area is teeming with ducks,gulls, waders, swan and geese. Most numerous are the widgeons, lapwing, blackhead gull, golden plover, blacktailed gotwit and curlew.

Flora of the bogland 
Ecology of bogs is very different. Fungi and bacteria, which normally breakdown dead plants in the presence of oxygen, cannot live here die to the deficiency of oxygen and the acidic environment. Dead plants are not recycled in bogs and the flora here is mainly evergreen. Three plants have adapted particularly well to this harsh environment; heathers, sphagnums mosses and sundews ( insectivorous plants). Heathers form an alliance with fungi in order to survive. Heather manufacture carbohydrates and shares it with the fungi which cannot do this. In return fungi assist the heather by obtaining essential nutrients. Also, heather has small densely packed leaves along the branches to protect against water loss. Sphagnum mosses are the main building blocks of raised bogs. They get their nutrients exclusively from rainwater and wind. They can absorb and retain up to 20 times their own weight of water. Sphagnum mosses produce complex acids and these exchange hydrogen ions for calcium, magnesium etc., which are important in a mineral deficient habitat and are taken up by the plant to provide it with nutrients. Sundews adapt to the bog environment by trapping and digesting insects to obtain essential nutrients which are lacking in the waterlogged soil. Other flora includes bog cotton, cranberry, bog orchid and bog rosemary.

Bog fauna
There are numerous types of animals, insects and birds living on bogs such as craneflys, frogs, hares, curlews, snipe, skylark and emperor moths. Many have adapted well to this environment, for example the Red Grouse, who nests on the ground due to absence of trees, has plumage which blends with bog vegetation. While diving beetles and water spiders trap air bubbles on the surface of the bog pool beneath the abdomen. They use this air to breathe under water when hunting for prey. The pond skater has adapted by moving quickly over the bog pool surface to catch pray, their legs are spread widely apart and the weight of the insect is thus evenly distributed which facilitates fast movement on the surface of the water.

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