Country Infos

Country Profile Manager:
James Moran
Atlantic Technological University
Phone: +353 86 6063949





The project aims to protect and restore priority habitats on the Aran Islands at lower costs and greater efficiency through the exploration and development of innovative methods of habitat improvement and conservation, and also to keep phosphorus supplementation on the Islands to a minimum.

Species rich grasslands of the Aran Islands
Close relationship between cattle grazing systems and grassland biodiversity

Location of the scheme

one region

The Aran Islands are a group of three islands located on the west coast of Ireland just outside Galway Bay. 



Duration of the scheme

Since: January 2018
Until: December 2021

Objective(s) of the scheme / project

  • Biodiversity
  • Cultural heritage
  • Landscape amenities, including recreation, tourism
  • Erosion control
  • Water quality
  • Other

The project pursues the following specific objectives:

  • examine technologies that increase the quality and uniformity of habitat assessments whilst cutting down on the labour intensity and administrative cost of agri-environmental conservation and improvement measures;
  • examine non-subsidy methods of improving farm income levels to address issues of land abandonment, undergrazing, intensification, loss of traditional management systems and associated loss of knowledge which degrade the conservation status of priority habitat;
  • investigate innovative and cost-effective ways of selectively delivering phosphorus to cattle on the Aran Islands which minimises any adverse effect on species richness and diversity; improve the conservation status of 1,500 hectares of priority habitats; enhance understanding, appreciation and engagement of all the key stakeholders with the conservation of priority habitats on the Aran Islands.

Which habitats or species are in the focus of the scheme / project?

  • Habitats (incl. habitats of Fauna-Flora-Habitat-Directive (FFH-D.))

Orchid rich grasslands (6210*)

Limestone pavement (8240*)

Mosaic habitats of Orchid rich grasslands (6210*) and Limestone pavement (8240*)

Machair (21A0*)

The Aran Islands contain some of Europe’s scarcest and most valuable Limestone pavement, Orchid rich calcareous grasslands and Machair habitat. Due to relatively low farm incomes, small and fragmented holdings, low productivity land, high labour intensity of optimal conservation methods and other factors, the high priority habitats are not receiving adequate maintenance, with consequent loss of species diversity. Traditional farming practices and knowledge are being lost and non-economic units are being abandoned, leading to overgrowth and reversion to scrub and consequent loss of species diversity.

Which indicators are used?

  • Habitats (incl FFH and BD)
  • Physical structures (e.g. dead wood, presence of brushwood, hollow trees, tall grass)
  • Other

Habitats- Species Composition, presence of positive and negative indicator species

Agricultural activity

Grazing condition

Damage assessment

Using the presence and abundance of specific indicator species the habitat can be identified and an assessment of the habitat condition can be made.  Other indicators to assess habitat condition include: level of agricultural activity, grazing condition (showing signs of adequate grazing and the absence of thick swards of dead vegetation), and damage assessment (excessively poached ground should be absent).

Design of scheme / project

  • Hybrid result based payment with complementary management based payments

Hybrid result based payment with complementary management based payments including scrub control and provision of water infrastructure to aid habitat restoration and improve habitat score.

The project activities are: developing a simplified habitat scoring system that enables farmers to self-assess the habitat status of land and take steps to improve the score; developing remote sensing tools for habitat scoring, work monitoring and assessment, and evaluation of self-assessment scores.

By which fund(s) is the scheme / project implemented?

  • Other measures of Rural Development

EIP operational group. Caomhnú Árann is an EIP-Agri Operational Group co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the EU.

How are the incentives (payment levels) calculated?

  • Based on the costs of management actions

Costs are based on calculating the time involved for a range of actions and from that producing associated costs. Trial work from a previous project calculated the time involved in cutting scrub, building a water infrastructure and from that a standard cost for this work is calculated. For scrub control this is further broken into heavy, medium or light scrub and for building water tanks the costs are split between repairs and new tanks.


For the grazing score, the previous project, AranLIFE, project investigated the major factors that contributed to the production of high quality grasslands. Grazing levels and the amount of time invested into land parcels are the main drivers contributing to the production of grasslands with a high conservation value. Additional time is required for: maintenance of walls to control the extent of grazing; moving livestock across the farm; constant herding of cattle to ensure removal of vegetation and achieving optimum grazing levels; regular removal of encroaching scrub by hand; and supply of adequate water supply to meet the needs of the grazing livestock.  The previous work showed that in most situations small increases in stocking rates were required on targeted habitats to achieve higher scores, this was calculated at 0.25LU/ha for score of 3, 0.28LU/ha for a score of 4 and 0.32LU/ha for a score of 5. Based on national data figures, the labour required for an out-wintered cow equates to 3.5 working days per year or 28 hours, by costing the time involved in achieving the elevated stocking rates a cost per hectare was calculated.

Is there a top up in case of reaching the goals?

  • No

How many hectares are in the scheme?

  • 2.001 – 5.000

How many farmers take part in the scheme?

  • 101 – 500

How are participating farmers supervised/advised?

  • Advisors visits (obligatory)
  • Advisors visits (optional)
  • Advice by telephone
  • Information documents (pamphlets, reports, etc.)
  • Website
  • Information meetings/workshops (obligatory)
  • Information meetings/workshops (voluntary)
  • Other

Caomhnú Árann is run by a three person project team which includes a project manager, scientific and technical officer and a financial and administration officer. The project team run a number of meetings each year to update farmers and also a number of clinics are held each year which are on one to one basis. This enables discussion on works involved and description of the processes. All members of the project team are involved in this. Where required or requested, additional farm visits take place from the project manager or the scientific and technical officer. Farmers are also supplied with telephone numbers of the team so they have easy access if required. For information dissemination, the team produces a number of newsletters each year and maintain social network platforms. As Irish is the first language on the islands all information is supplied in English and Irish.  A large percentage of the work completed is also inspected, this includes a discussion with the farmer regarding habitat management, any additional works needed and feedback on the scheme.

Are there any evaluation results?

  • In preparation

The project started in 2019 and the work involved was mainly preparatory in nature, selecting farms, agreeing workings involved, building baseline databases, trialling scoring systems and producing farm plans each farm. The action based work, scrub control, construction of a water infrastructure are checked at each claim either through farm inspections or as a result of COVID 19 using photographic imagery to assess works completed. Evaluation of the scoring system will continue in 2020 through remote sensing and ground truthing.

An annual report is produced each year detailing work to date.


Contact person

Caomhnú Árann

Teach Ceann Tuí 2, Inis Oírr, Oileáin Árann, Co na Gaillimhe