Statutory Nature Reserve

The objective of this designation is the protection of natural habitats, fauna and flora.

First established under the 1976 Wildlife Act, by 1996 Ireland had 78 sites covering 18,000 ha (0.26% of territory). Duchas (National Parks and Wildlife Division) and the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht are the responsible authorities in Ireland, and can designate habitats as Nature Reserves on state or private land.

Statutory Nature Reserves offer the most rigorous protection mechanism in Ireland.  Created in 1980 all are also Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) and some are Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
78 areas were designated by 1996 under the ‘nature reserve acquisition programme’ by Duchas.
Woodlands, peatlands and intertidal areas are the best habitat types represented. Few are grassland, sand dune, marine or fen sites.

Management of reserves is mainly conservation in nature. e.g. Conifer removal from Knocksink Woods.

21 reserves had no management plans in 1996. Grazing agreements can be made on grassland habitats with local farmers. 90% are small in size, few are over 1000 ha.
60 are less than 250 ha.


Special interest features include-

  • • Waterfowl
  • • Raptors
  • • Breeding seabirds
  • • Natterjack toads


26 nature reserves contain priority habitats including: transition bogs, raised and blanket bog, sand dunes, fen -tufa spring and limestone pavement.

There has been a recent push to have more peatland areas included.

Many Statutory Nature Reserves overlap with SPA, Ramser Sites, Biogenetic Reserves, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, TPOs and the Wicklow National Park.
16 are owned by private or voluntary bodies-e.g. Irish Wildbird Conservancy • Dublin Corperation (Bull Island) • Kilcolman Wildfowl reserve • ESB • An Taisce (Mongan Bog)