Waterbirds, Waterbirds - Restoration and management of the Murrough wetlands for Annex I Habitats and Waterbirds

Waterbirds, Waterbirds - Restoration and management of the Murrough wetlands for Annex I Habitats and Waterbirds

Background: Ireland has a long history of damage to wetlands caused by drainage and agricultural reclamation. The Murrough Wetlands pSCI on the coast of County Wicklow, to the south of Dublin, was also degraded and this, in turn, reduced the habitat available for wildfowl, such as the Annex I species Anser albifrons flavirostris. The Murrough Wetlands pSCI is a long but narrow coastal wetland complex, bounded on its seaward side by a shingle ridge, stretching for 15 km but only up to 1 km deep. Within this overall site lies the Kilcoole Marshes SPA and the Broad Lough SPA. General threats to the wetland habitats came from drainage, afforestation and a lack of grazing regimes, leading to drier conditions and a loss of biodiversity. The LIFE project, whilst focusing restoration effort on one part of the overall site, which would be purchased at the start of the project, would also help to promote conservation needs across the whole site. Although relatively small-scale, it would be a demonstration at national level of the potential for reversing damage to wetlands in Ireland. Objective: The LIFE-Nature project aimed to restore and manage wetland habitat to create ideal conditions for Annex I birds and to improve the integrity of the largest wetland complex on the east coast of Ireland. BirdWatch Ireland was to purchase a 89 ha site within the Murrough Wetlands pSCI for the restoration of Annex I calcareous fens and for positive management for the Annex I bird species Anser albifrons flavirostris, Cygnus cygnus, Alcedo atthis and Egretta garzetta. Part of the land to be purchased, outside the pSCI at the beginning of the project, would be added to the Natura 2000 site. Following restoration, it was expected that the project area would support Annex I birds in sufficient numbers for the Kilcoole Marshes SPA to be expanded. In addition to consolidating the site through purchase, improved habitat would be delivered through seasonally raising water levels, implementing a seasonal grazing regime, scrub control and clearing and reprofiling the drainage ditches. Through interpretation and controlled public access, the project aimed to increase awareness of the conservation value of the wider area and the purpose and value of Natura 2000 designation. It also sought to demonstrate the potential for economic benefits for local communities through environmental designations.

If you want to read more about this project, you can do so at erc.epa.ie.

Oran O'Sullivan (IE)

Keywords: Drainage system; Agriculture; Wetland; Conservation

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