The Mourne AONB is designated for the qualities of its landscape. That landscape contains a remarkable range of natural and semi-natural habitats – a delightful mosaic of heather, moor, bog and pasture, dotted with freshwater and woodlands. Coastal areas boast sandy and rocky shores with mudflats as well as salt marsh.
Unsurprisingly, upland habitats – including upland and montane heath and blanket bog – are particularly important. The lowland countryside is dominated by agricultural land but also has important semi-natural habitats including hedgerows, lowland heath, dry acid grassland and meadows. Woodlands cover only about one fifth of the Mourne AONB. Over half of this is conifer but containing some broadleaved woodlands as well. More than 340 km of rivers and streams criss-cross the area. Some of these waterways feed major reservoirs, others support Otter populations and provide excellent spawning grounds for Salmon and Trout. Wetlands, including marshes and fens, provide the perfect habitat for dragonflies and damselflies.
And then there’s also the Mourne coast, bathed by warm waters from the south Irish Sea. An important nursery area for young fish, its saltmarsh and mudflats also support large numbers of wintering waders. Off the coast, the cold northerly waters of the North Atlantic meet warmer waters from the south, resulting in an unusual mixing of species ranging from microscopic algae (phytoplankton) to grazing animals. Mammals, including Common and Grey Seals as well as Dolphins and Harbour Porpoise, can all be found. Sea birds, such as the Common and Sandwich Tern, use the open sea as a feeding ground.