The geography of Ireland comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. Its lush vegetation is a product of its mild but changeable climate which is free of extremes in temperature. Much of Ireland was woodland until the end of the Middle Ages. Today, woodland makes up about 10% of the island, compared with a European average of over 33%, and most of it is non-native conifer plantations. There are twenty-six extant land mammal species native to Ireland. The Irish climate is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and thus very moderate and winters are milder than expected for such a northerly area, although summers are cooler than those in continental Europe. Rainfall and cloud cover are abundant.
In 1973 the Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community while the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland, as part of it, did the same.
Irish culture has had a significant influence on other cultures, especially in the field of literature. Alongside mainstream Western culture, a strong indigenous culture exists, as expressed through Gaelic games, Irish music and the Irish language. The island's culture shares many features with that of Great Britain, including the English language, and sports such as association football, rugby, horse racing, and golf.