Lough Neagh ASSI

Protected area type: Areas of Special Scientific Interest
Feature type: 
  • Habitat
  • Antrim
  • Armagh
  • Down
  • Londonderry
  • Tyrone
Council: Antrim and Newtownabbey
Guidance and literature: Lough Neagh ASSI

Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the United Kingdom, is a relatively shallow body of water supporting beds of submerged aquatic vegetation fringed by associated species-rich damp grassland, reedbeds, islands, fens, marginal swampy woodland and pasture.

Other interesting vegetation types include those associated with pockets of cut-over bog, basalt rock outcrops and boulders, and the mobile sandy shore. [picture of a nesting coot] Over forty rare or local vascular plants have been recorded for the site since 1970, the most notable are eight-stemmed waterwort, marsh pea, Irish lady's tresses orchid, alder buckthorn, narrow small-reed and holy grass. All these plants are protected under Part 1 of Schedule 8 of the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985.

The Lough and its margin are also home to a large number of rare or local invertebrates, including two aquatic and two terrestrial molluscs, a freshwater shrimp (Mysis relicta), eight beetles, five hoverflies, seven moths and two butterflies. Of the rare beetles recorded two, Stenus palposus and Dyschirus obscurus, have their only known Irish location around the Lough. The Lough also supports twelve species of dragonfly.

Three notable fish also occur in the Lough, the river Lamprey and the Pollan; both Irish Red Data Species, and the eel, which is present in large numbers and commercially fished.

Internationally important numbers of waterfowl regularly winter on the Lough, with the peak number averaging over 66,800 birds since 1988. Individually, species which qualify as internationally important are whooper swans pochard, tufted duck, scaup and goldeneye. Species which qualify as nationally important are great crested grebe, cormorant, mute swan, Bewick's swan, shelduck, wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard and coot. 

In the summer the Lough supports internationally important numbers of breeding black-headed gulls and has the largest concentration of great crested greb in Ireland. Nationally important numbers of breeding redshank, snipe, common tern, tufted duck, pochard, shoveler and gadwall are found (the last three being Irish Red Data Species).

Lough Neagh ASSI also contains a nationally important Earth Science Conservation Review Site (ESCRS) at Traad Point, in the form of a sand bar development.

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