Northern Ireland's marine and coastal habitats

Environment and Marine Group (EMG) monitor the plant and animal communities that occur in and beside the sea - these are influenced by a number of physical and chemical factors.

Coastal habitats

 A wide range of habitats in coastal areas of Northern Ireland are monitored. These include:

Sand dunes systems 

For example at the mouth of the Bann estuary and at Magilligan where there are also well developed dune wetland habitats, Murlough dunes in Dundrum Bay.

Rocky cliffs 

These are important for colonies of nesting seabirds, such as guillemot, razorbill, kittiwake and puffin, particularly around the coast of Rathlin Island.

Vegetated shingle 

Vegetated shingle occurs at the upper end of the shore around the coast, especially around the Mournes Coast and Rathlin Island.


Saltmarsh is associated with mudflats in our major estuaries and sea loughs such as at Mill Bay in Carlingford Lough, the Comber Estuary in Strangford Lough, Ballycarry in Larne Lough, and at the Roe.


These are important for many bird species, some of which travel long distances to overwinter on the wide areas of intertidal muds and sands on our shores. Estuaries are also important for many migratory fish.

Estuary in Lough Foyle is a rare habitat in Northern Ireland and, in the wider context of Europe, it is a high priority for nature conservation.

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