A map of the potential natural vegetation of Ireland with an outline description of the vegetation units is presented. The vegetation of Ireland has a distinctive and highly oceanic character as a result of its location on the northwestern extremity of the Eurasian landmass and its recent geological and vegetation history. Forests would naturally cover the greater part of the island but the long history of forest decline over the last 6000 yr, due to clearance by man and paludification, has led to the present situation where native forest cover is less than 1 % of the land area. Together with intensive land use, drainage, peat cutting and the introduction of alien species, this presents considerable difficulties in the construction of mapping units. The map, which has been compiled as part of the Vegetation Map of Europe at a scale of 1 : 2.5 million, contains 20 mapping units. They comprise: nine forests, i.e. montane birch forests (one unit), acidophilous oak forests (two units), forests of oak or oak and ash with hazel on mostly base-rich soils (four units), forests on alluvium and gleyed clays (one unit each); five mire types, i.e. blanket mires (two units), raised bogs (one unit), sedge mires (one unit), degraded raised bogs (one unit); and six minor units viz. heaths (two units), sand dunes (two units), salt marshes (one unit) and polders (one unit). As a result of human activity, the potential natural vegetation, especially the forests, will differ considerably from the former natural climax vegetation.
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