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Killarney National Park

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Killarney National Park, near Killarney, County Kerry, was Ireland's first national park. It was founded in 1932 when the Muckross estate was donated to the Irish Free State. Since then, the park has been greatly expanded, covering over 102.89 km² of diverse ecology, including the Killarney Lakes, world-class oak and yew forests and surrounding mountain peaks. It has Ireland's only herd of fallow deer on land and the most extensive remnants of former woodland. The park has a high ecological value due to the quality, variety and distribution of many habitats and a huge variety of species, some of which are rare. The park was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1981. It is part of a special protected area according to the habitat directive (92/43/EEC) of the European Union on the conservation of natural habitats and wild animal and plant species.

The famous Kerry Way hiking trail also runs through the park.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for the management and maintenance of the park. Conservation of nature is the main goal of the park and ecosystems in their natural state are highly valued. The park is known for its landscape, recreational and tourist facilities.

The national park is located in County Kerry in South West Ireland. The park includes the Lakes of Killarney and the hills of Mangerton, Torc, Shehy and Purple. The altitude of the park is from 22 to 842 meters. There is a major geological boundary in the park between Devonian Old Red Sandstones and Carboniferous Limestones. The underlying geology of most of the park is sandstone with sheets of limestone that occur on the low eastern shore of Lough Leane. Lough Leane is Killarney's largest lake and has over 30 islets.

The park has an oceanic climate that is heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream. It has mild winters (February average 6 °C) and cool summers (15 °C in July). Average daily temperatures range from a low of 5.88 °C in January to 15.28 °C in July. There is considerable rainfall and it is frequent throughout the year. The average amount of precipitation is 1,263 millimeters per year, 223 days a year more than 1 millimeter falls. The average number of frost days is 40.

The park's geological boundary, wide elevation range, and the climatic influence of the Gulf Stream ensure a diverse ecology. Ecosystems are bogs, lakes, swamps, mountains, waterways, forest areas, parks and gardens. Stone outcrops, cliffs and cherries are the features of the park. Above 200 meters in the sandstone area, there are large areas of tall barrios and resava.

The National Park is one of the few places in Ireland that has been continuously covered with forest since the end of the last ice age around 10,000 years ago. Archaeological finds have shown that people lived in the area during the Bronze Age about 4,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found evidence of copper mining on Ross Island during this period, indicating that the area was very important to Bronze Age people. The park has many archaeological sites, including the well-preserved stone circle at Lissivigeen. The forests in the park have been logged at various times since the Iron Age. This resulted in a gradual decrease in the diversity of tree species in the park.

The Killarney lakes are Lough Leane (Lower Lake), Muckross Lake (Middle Lake) and Upper Lake (Upper Lake) are interconnected and together occupy almost a quarter of the park area. Despite being interconnected, each lake has a unique ecosystem.

Lough Leane is approximately 19 km² in size and is the largest of the three lakes. It is also the largest body of fresh water in the region. It is also the most nutrient-rich lake. Due to phosphates in agriculture and domestic pollution, it has become eutrophic, flowing into reedbeds, an important habitat on the edge of the lake. This nutrient enrichment has resulted in greater algal blooms in recent years, which have not yet had a major impact on the lake ecosystem. In order to prevent further pollution, which causes a permanent change in the lake's ecosystem, the use of land in the watershed is being reviewed. The lake's water quality seems to have improved since phosphates have been removed from the sewage since 1985. As of August 2007, several large hotels and companies have announced plans to stop using phosphate detergents in order to maintain lake water quality.

At 73.5m, Lake Muckross is the deepest of the three lakes. It is deepest near the place where the steep slope of Mount Torc enters the lake. The lake lies on the geological border between the sand mountains in the south and west and the limestone in the north. Lough Leane and Muckross lie across the geological boundary. Limestone makes the two lakes slightly richer in nutrients than Upper Lake. There are many lake-level caves in the limestone, created by wave action combined with the dissolution effect of the lake's acidic water on the exposed rock. These caves are the largest on the north shore of Muckross Lake.

From the meeting of the three lakes (Meeting of the Waters) continues a narrow channel called the Long Range, which leads to Upper Lake, the smallest of the three. This lake is in a rocky mountain landscape in the upper Killarney/Black Valley area. Rapid water runoff during rains in the lake's catchment area can raise the lake level by up to one meter in a few hours.

Muckross Lake and Upper Lake are high quality oligotrophic systems with water that is slightly acidic and low in nutrients. This is the result of runoff from mountain sandstones and high barrios in their catchments. They have a variety of aquatic vegetation, including Merlin's grass (Isoetes lacustris), fringe grass (Littorella uniflora) and water lobelia (Lobelia dortmanna).

Killarney has the largest area (approximately 120 km²) of semi-natural woodland (forest dominated by native species) growing in Ireland. Most of this forest is included in the national park. There are three main forest types in the park: acidophilic oak (Quercus petraea-Ilex aquifolium) on Devonian sandstone, moss-rich yew (Taxus baccata) forest on Carboniferous limestone outcrops, and alder-dominated wet forest on low-lying swampy limestone soils on the margins lakes. The forests in the park naturally run in two parts along the geological boundary. Oak and yew are internationally important. The park also has mixed forests and conifers. The mixed forest on Ross Island has one of the richest layers of herbs in the park.

Grazing and rhododendron encroachment threaten the park's forests. Rhododendrons affect about two-thirds of oak forests. They are removing it in the park.

Literature and source:

Killarney National Park, URL: https://www.killarneynationalpark.ie, (retreived 22. se'ptember 2022),

National Parks of Ireland, URL: https://www.nationalparks.ie, (retreived 22. september 2022).


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