High Nature Value (HNV) farmland is extensively managed farmland that has high biodiversity. This farmland is important for the conservation of semi-natural habitats and the plants and animals linked with them. Supporting this type of farmland will ensure high levels of farmland biodiversity, vibrant rural communities, high water, air and soil quality and resistance to flooding among other things.

These farms occur most frequently in areas that are mountainous, or areas where natural constraints prevent intensification. Farming sustains the biodiversity of these landscapes and is integral to maintaining their high nature value.

There are three types of HNV farmland

irish farms in the south

This is farmland where the main grazing areas are managed extensively and are dominated by peatland and semi-natural grasslands. In Ireland these are often upland farms that have peatland habitats such as blanket bog and heath. They occur in Connemara, the Iveragh Peninsula and the Inishowen peninsula in the west and the Blackstairs, Comeraghs and Wicklow uplands in the east.

They may also be lowland farms dominated by species-rich wet or dry grasslands such as those in the Burren, the Aran Islands and north County Leitrim.

This farmland has similar properties to whole HNV farmland but for part of the farm only. Part of the farm (usually around 50%) has low stocking levels on semi-natural habitats, while part of the farm has agricultural grassland that can be farmed more intensively.

These farms could have semi-natural grassland habitats such as wet grassland, dry calcareous grassland or commonage alongside improved agricultural grassland  (grassland that has been reseeded in the last ten years and receives chemical  fertiliser) along with field boundaries such as hedgerows, drainage ditches, treelines, stone walls or earth banks and maybe a pond or a patch of scrub or woodland.

This type of farmland can occur at the foothills of mountain areas where the lowlandsare more intensively managed and the uplands are dominated by low intensity management such as the Comeraghs or where there is a mixture of grassland intensities in a landscape such as Leitrim, east Mayo and east Galway

irish hnv remnant farmland

These farms have high cover of improved agricultural grassland and in most cases are not HNV farms. They often have small patches of semi-natural habitats but these areas are not essential to the farm and are maintained for cross-compliance or agri-environmental scheme payments such as AEOS or GLAS or due to nature conservation designations such as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Areas (SPA).

There is one case where these farms may be High Nature Value farms. Many farms on the Shannon floodplains have high cover of improved agricultural grassland but also have a small area of unimproved wet grassland (usually 20-30%). These small areas of wet grassland join up to form the Shannon Callows supporting high plant, bird and insect populations. Farms that contribute to the callows (even if the semi-natural habitat cover is low compared to other HNV farms) are still considered to be HNV in Ireland.