Tionscnaimh

Volume 6

 

New Survey of Clare Island -Volume 6: Freshwater and Terrestrial Algae

This full-colour, beautifully illustrated volume presents a comprehensive study of the biodiversity of freshwater and terrestrial algae of Clare Island undertaken by specialists from NUI, Galway, the Natural History Museum, London, and the University of Durham as part of the Royal Irish Academy’s New Survey of Clare Island.

As a result of this research, the island is now one the most intensively worked sites in Ireland and Britain. Its amazingly rich algal flora, encompassing well over 700 species, makes it for its size one of few known ‘hotspots’ of algal diversity anywhere in the world.

The work presents a very diverse assemblage of mainly photosynthetic organisms, which generally require a high degree of specialised knowledge for identification.

It covers blue-green algae and freshwater matters, diatoms, other algal groups, stoneworts (charophytes) and the terrestrial algae.

Many species present at the time of the first survey of Clare Island (1909–11) were not found, and a number not previously found have been recorded on this occasion.

Some longer trends are apparent. In general, the island seems to be drier and some of the smaller water bodies and two of the four loughs known then have disappeared. Whether the losses are attributable to climate change is debatable. Unquestionably, microalgal diversity will be compromised if recent trends continue and the remaining loughs, the most species-rich sites, were to disappear.

Although no real effects of changes in farming practices were detected in the present study, human-induced changes to the landscape inevitably affect algae, with drainage leading to habitat loss and turf-cutting creating areas of open water suitable for colonisation. The relatively recent arrival on the island of Gunneratinctoria (Giant Rhubarb or Chilean Rhubarb) with its blue-green algal symbiont and its spread along water courses is a cause for considerable concern, from the viewpoint of further reducing freshwater habitats. Decline in numbers of farmers will certainly encourage the spread of this invasive species, and every effort should be made to contain it.

 

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