The amount of Ireland covered in concrete, paving and roads has almost doubled in less than 30 years, a land use study has found.
But artificial surfaces still occupy just 2.4pc of the land, a tiny proportion compared with agriculture, which covers 67.35pc.
The findings are in the first phase of a Land Use Review project begun by the Department of Environment and Department of Agriculture.
The study found that just 8pc of the country’s land can be verified to be publicly owned, compared with 78pc in private ownership.
Bizarrely, it could not be determined who owned the remaining 14pc.
The study looks at land use under five broad categories: artificial surfaces, agriculture, forest and semi-natural areas, wetlands and water bodies.
It shows almost 20pc of the country’s wetlands, mainly peatlands and fens, have been lost since 1990, now making up 14.83pc of the country’s land. Forests and semi-natural areas have increased their coverage from 10.22pc to 13.33pc, mainly through an increase in commercial forestry planting, which accounts for 11pc.
Water bodies – rivers, lakes and estuaries – have reduced in cover from 2.35pc in 1990 to a figure between 1.72pc and 2.1pc, with different sources giving separate figures.
Within agricultural lands, grassland dominates. It means 60pc of Ireland is used to feed livestock through pasture, rough grazing, hay and silage.
By comparison, all of the land used to grow cereal crops would fit into Co Roscommon and all the land used for fruit and vegetables would cover no more than three-quarters of Co Dublin.
The review is being carried out at a time when soils, water sources and semi-natural places are under increasing pressure from intensive agriculture and urbanisation.
It also comes as crucial decisions need to be taken to preserve biodiversity, and limit climate change.