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Arlene Foster, environment minister, unveiled the latest results of extensive research into the natural environment to delegates from Ireland’s eco-community.

It was revealed that 29 new species of sponges were discovered off the coast of Rathlin Island.

The minister said: “Not only is this research important for decision makers, but it is also revealing lots of fascinating information about our natural environment.

“It just goes to show how much there is still to discover about our wonderful natural environment.”

The eco-conference, held in Belfast, covered all topics which threaten the environment, including climate change and research into habitats and species.

A study by the Irish American Climate Project was published in March stating that Ireland’s famous emerald landscape could be replaced with a brown dusty tan in the future if measures to combat climate change are not implemented.

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