National Biodiversity Week is set to kick off this weekend to draw attention to Ireland’s diverse species and natural habitats and their role in maintaining a healthy environment.

Organised by the Irish Environmental Network, over 50 free events will take place across the country over the course of nine days (May 19 – 27).

From the dawn chorus to bat walks at dusk, every day of the week will be packed with free activities and events across Ireland to entertain the whole family, organisers claim.

National Biodiversity Week focuses on encouraging people to go outdoors, connect with nature and celebrate the extraordinary variety of flora, fauna and habitats right on our doorsteps.

The week will kick off with a unique tour of Abbeyleix Bog, Co. Laois, on May 19 led by leading environmental broadcasters, Eanna Ni Lamhna (Mooney Goes Wild) and Anja Murray (Eco Eye).

All 100 tickets sold out in less than 48 hours, showing the public’s desire to learn about the bog’s rich biodiversity, the organisers say.

Over 550 species are recorded on the bog, including now rare species such as the Hen Harrier, Curlew, Short-Eared Owl and Red Squirrels.

Biodiversity Week also coincides with International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22, which will celebrate 25 years since the UN Convention on Biological Diversity came into force.

Stressing the importance of protecting biodiversity is more important now than ever, the Irish Environmental Network has said.

This follows the publication of a new three-year international study stressing that biodiversity is declining in every region of the world, impacting nature’s capacity to provide food, water, and safety to people.

In Ireland, the latest National Biodiversity Indicators report found that more action is needed if we are to meet our national, European and international conservation targets, the organisation adds.

National Biodiversity Week thus holds an important role in highlighting the importance of biodiversity protection and providing an opportunity for the public to meet those striving to protect our natural resources, the group says.

Commenting on the initiative, Michael Ewing, coordinator of the Irish Environmental Network, said: “National Biodiversity Week provides us with a great opportunity to learn more about our native plant and animal species, and also to find out how we as individuals and as communities can help to ensure the survival of our wildlife for future generations.

“National Biodiversity Week is also about making it fun and easy to be among nature. The events are all free and led by wildlife experts so I really encourage everyone to get involved.

Kieran Flood, biodiversity spokesperson for the Irish Environmental Network, said: “Biodiversity Week is a great opportunity to learn more about the wonderful biodiversity of Ireland from bats to bogs to bumblebees and it is a chance to meet some of the people striving to protect this natural resource.

Our biodiversity – the plants and animals found in our communities, nature reserves and back gardens – is in need of protection as our actions put it under great pressure across the Irish landscape.

“Protecting biodiversity means protecting ourselves. A simple example of the importance of biodiversity to us is the role of pollinators. These insect such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies pollinate our crops as part of their lifecycle and thus they help feed us.”