Na hOileáin Árann
The Aran Islands have supported farming communities for over 4,000 years, who in turn have left behind a rich cultural legacy, including spectacular great forts on the Islands and a dense web of high field wall systems. Between these walls lie some of Ireland's best dry grassland habitats including species rich calcareous grassland and Machair grasslands and of course the Limestone Pavement with its distinctive surface and features. These habitats contain a fantastic range of plants, some common species like Ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) but some with very limited distribution in Ireland like Pyramidal Bugle (Ajuga pyramidalis) or Roseroot (Sedum rosea). Whilst only 40 km² in area, the Aran Islands are home to approximately 500 plant species.
The new approach
The farming system, predominantly spring calving beef cows, has a low herd size, low stocking rate but with a high associated labour input. In the past agri-environment schemes like REPS, AEOS and GLAS have been an important additional farm income and there has been a high uptake of these schemes. The new ACRES scheme takes a different approach, a local project team will work with the farmers continuing with the approach taken under AranLIFE and Caomhnú Árann, working with the former Burren Programme under the ACRES Burren/Aran Co-operation programme.
Changes from Caomhnú Árann
The scheme will initially concentrate on the species rich grasslands of the islands and the continued maintenance of stone walls, both of which are abundant on the three islands. The different fields of the farm will each be visited and receive a score based on the quality of the habitat, with well managed fields supporting a high diversity of plants receiving a higher score. The local project team will work with farmers to improve scores through an advisory service, training days and by financing different actions such as scrub control, provision of water tanks where required.