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Aran Islands, Western Ireland: Farming History and Environmental Change, Reconstructed from Field Surveys, Historical Sources, and Pollen Analyses

Michael O’Connell1,* and Karen Molloy1

1Palaeoenvironmental Research Unit, School of Geography and Archaeology, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway H91 TK33, Ireland. *Corresponding author.

Journal of the North Atlantic, No. 38 (2019)

Abstract
The Aran Islands are exceptional cultural landscapes at the Atlantic fringe of Europe. They are strongly influenced by human settlement and small-scale farming that is still pursued according to traditional practices. Reconstruction of changes in farming from the beginning of the early 20th century onwards, and demographic changes beginning in the early 19th century, are discussed in the light of official statistics. Field surveys, aimed mainly at documenting the extent of Secale cereale (rye) cultivation, provide more precise information on the extent of rye cultivation in recent decades and give fresh insights into present-day flora, vegetation, and plant biodiversity. Results from a previously published, lake sediment-based Holocene pollen profile from Inis Oírr are re-assessed in the light of modern-day pollen deposition studies that we carried out. We discuss the implications of long-distance pollen transport for the interpretation of Holocene pollen diagrams in relation to the history of trees, including Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine), in Ireland, and we emphasize the importance of supporting traditional farming practices, particularly as regards cereal growing, on the Aran Islands.

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Aran Islands, Western Ireland: Farming History and Environmental Change, Reconstructed from Field Surveys, Historical Sources, and Pollen Analyses Michael O’Connell and Karen Molloy