World Wetlands Day 2005 -- UK -- Northern Ireland

02/03/2005

Ulster Wildlife Trust Media Release
28/01/05 For Immediate Use

Natural Wealth in South Belfast

The Ulster Wildlife Trust invites people to find out how an urban wetland on their doorstep is of vital importance to them, and to celebrate World Wetlands Day at the same time. The Trust is holding a family day event exploring Lagan Meadows Nature Reserve, in South Belfast, on Saturday 5th February 2005 from 11am to 3pm. There will be three separate hour-long tours at 11am, 12.30pm, and 2pm, with fun, games, and learning for adults and children alike.

Ulster Wildlife Trust staff will be showing visitors around the wealth of invaluable habitats on the city's doorstep. They will find out about the winter wildlife that's around, the social history of how the site provided Belfast's first formal water supply, how it continues to supply water to households, and some of the current threats to our Northern Irish wetlands.

The Ulster Wildlife Trust has managed Lagan Meadows as a nature reserve since 1988, and now for the first time has a Nature Reserve Warden - Rachel Bryers - in place to manage the site.

Rachel explains, "Wetlands are the meeting point of land and water. They can be extremely beautiful places with an immense and fascinating variety of wildlife, but they are also places which have cultural and historical interest to our own society." She adds, "They can provide natural flood defences, a natural water cleansing system, food, and places for wildlife and humans to live and escape."

Siobhan Lanigan O'Keeffe, UWT's Community Environmental Education Officer will be leading the educational activities at the event, she says, "The event will give families the opportunity to come and learn more about wetlands and their importance. There will be several guided walks around the nature reserve with interesting facts, fun games and activities and every group will receive an activity pack which they can use when they visit the reserve again."

Around the globe, celebrations for World Wetland Day 2005 will focus on the wealth, both financial and emotional, that wetlands continue to offer our communities.

For more information about World Wetlands Day at Lagan Meadows, contact The Ulster Wildlife Trust Education Dept on 02844830282 or education.officer@ulsterwildlifetrust.org.

Editors Notes

Wetland Facts:

  • Why are Wetlands Important -
    o They are home to specialised plants and animals that are not found in any other habitat
    o They are vital to migrating birds as feeding and rest points
    o They regulate water supplies by maintaining ground water levels and storing winter flood water
    o They provide water for agricultural and industrial users
    o They support commercial fisheries, fish farms, and angling
    o They are important for sport, recreation and tourism
  • Types of Wetland include -
    o Lakes and ponds
    o Fen, marsh and swamp
    o Bogs
    o Rivers and streams
    o Mudflats and saltmarshes
  • Threats to Wetlands include -
    o Loss of Peatland due to peat extraction
    o Drainage and agricultural improvement
    o Pollution
    o Waste dumping
    o Development
  • 2nd February each year is World Wetlands Day. World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time in 1997. Each year government organisations, non-governmental organisations, and groups of citizens from all of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits.

The Lagan Meadows Nature Reserve:

  • The Lagan Meadows reserve occupies a flat area of some 13 hectares on the Lagan valley floor, and lies within The Lagan Valley Regional Park.
  • The site consists of damp pasture, marsh and swamp with some willow and other scrub as well as some areas of mature trees and drier meadows.
  • A feature of the site is Lester's Dam an old reservoir reputed to be Belfast's oldest formal water supply dating back to the 1790's.
  • Lagan Meadows is owned by Belfast City Council and leased to Ulster Wildlife Trust on a ten-yearly basis.
  • The site is used for recreation by walkers and runners, although some of the reserve is not easily accessible and most users stick to the main paths and public areas.
  • The reserve has a more rural appearance and pastoral setting than that of the more formal demesnes and parks within Lagan Valley Regional Park, this helps to reinforce the message that the area is a nature reserve with different priorities for management than these other areas.
  • The main management involves grazing the pastures with cattle from April to October, maintaining public access, controlling the spread of invasive and non-native species, such as Japanese Knotweed.

The Ulster Wildlife Trust:

  • For more information on the work of the Ulster Wildlife Trust, contact Victoria Meredith at Ulster Wildlife Trust (028 4483 0282) or email to victoria.meredith@ulsterwildlifetrust.org
  • The Ulster Wildlife Trust was founded in 1978 and is working for the conservation and preservation of local wildlife and to raise awareness of the need for biodiversity enhancement. It does this by promoting a wider understanding of wildlife issues through communication, education and training
  • The Ulster Wildlife Trust currently manages 25 reserves throughout Northern Ireland and it is the aspiration of the Trust to help everyone to recognise that a healthy environment, rich in wildlife and managed on sustainable principles, is essential for human existence.
  • The Ulster Wildlife Trust has a current membership in excess of five thousand.

The Ulster Wildlife Trust, 3 New Line, Crossgar, Downpatrick, Co Down, BT30 9EP www.ulsterwildlifetrust.org Tel: 028 4483 0282 Fax: 028 44830888 Email: info@ulsterwildlifetrust.org A charity registered with Inland Revenue XN 45269


Pond dipping in Lester's Dam in Lagan Meadows Nature Reserve, Belfast.

Identifying the catch from pond dipping.

Frog art.

Creating frog art - this got people to look more closely at the wet grasslands to see the diversity of plant life they normally don't notice.

Watching for birds along the River Lagan in Belfast.

"There's wealth in wetland diversity
- don't lose it!"

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