An Ice Age legacy shapes the richly textured natural world of Ireland.

Although green is its emblematic color, Ireland’s verdant fields are not the nation’s only extraordinary natural features. Sculpted millions of years ago by the advance and retreat of vast shields of ice, the Emerald Isle harbors a wealth of wildlife among its craggy mountains, fog-shrouded coastlines, steep gorges, and vast networks of inland waterways.

Situated in the North Atlantic, Ireland is often buffeted by Atlantic storms but also enjoys the mild influences of the Gulf Stream, which passes nearby on its journey from the waters off Florida to the coast of Norway.

The first settlers of Ireland are believed to have arrived some 9,000 years ago. Impenetrable forests at first confined them to the coastline, where abundant fish and dense oyster beds in shallow waters offered an easy food source. Penetrating the forests, the population gradually moved inland, spreading across a strange and varied landscape of steep mountains, island-filled bays, dry grasslands, peat bogs, and the enigmatic Burren, a terrain marked by limestone outcroppings and huge boulders strewn by the retreating glaciers.

NATURE’s Ireland also explores the island’s diverse wildlife, from the peregrine falcons who haunt the mountainsides to the puffins, gannets, and dippers who nest and breed on the offshore islands, the salmon who journey upstream into its waters to spawn, and the otters, stoats, badgers, red deer, and other mammals that make Ireland their home.

To order a copy of Ireland, please visit the NATURE Shop.

Online content for Ireland was originally posted March 2004.

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