BurrenLife Project

BurrenLife Project


Due to the unique landscape, farmers in this region face many environmental challenges which the traditional agri-environmental schemes do not address. This project works with farmers to achieve specific environmental outcomes, rewarded by payments, and also makes funds available for farmers to invest in self-selected, but pre-approved, conservation projects. Environmental targets are set and monitored by farm advisors, performance is scored and payments are made based on the scoring system..


  • To ensure the sustainable agricultural management of HNV farmland in the Burren, improving water quality and usage, and supporting the landscape and cultural heritage of the region;
  • To preserve the culture and heritage of the region;
  • To support the economic and social sustainability of farmers.

Public Goods

Soil quality (and health)
Rural viability and vitality
Landscape and scenery
Cultural heritage
(Farmland) biodiversity
(Farmland) biodiversity
(Water quality

Problem description

The Burren extends over an estimated 72,000 ha of land in Counties Clare and Galway (Ireland). It is defined by the presence of exposed limestone, the calcium-rich skeletal remains of marine organisms that populated the seas over 340m years ago. The Burren has recently been recognized through UNESCO Geopark Status, over 30,000 ha of the Burren is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and an additional 2,000 ha designated as Special Protection Area under the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC). A study by Dunford (2001) estimated that stocking levels in the Burren increased from 0.38LU/ha in 1970 to 0.66LU/ha in 2000, a 73% increase. During this time, it is estimated that approximately 30% of the Burren’s archaeological sites were lost due to land reclamation. Silage gradually replaced the naturally available forage of the wintering pastures, resulting in reduced levels of grazing which contributed to a loss of biodiversity and accelerated levels of scrub encroachment. The initial stimulus for the project came from local farmers who, feeling threatened by SAC designations and environmental program conditions, decided to engage constructively with researchers and public authorities to find a way forward.

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