World Wetlands Day 2004 -- Ireland
BRIEF REPORT OF
THE WORLD WETLAND DAY MEETING
HELD AT SONAIRTE (THE NATIONAL ECOLOGY CENTER),
LAYTOW, CO MEATH, IRELAND
ON 8TH FEBRUARY 2004
Claire Shelshear from Sonairte welcomed the delegates.
A presentation on LOCAL WETLANDS AT RISK was made by Michael Gunn of Coastwatch. He reviewed what are considered to be wetlands under the Ramsar definition and broke the presentation into the major parts - the hydrological properties of wetlands, water purification mechanisms and wildlife resources associated with wetlands. He pointed out that some of the flood abatement properties associated with the local river Boyne had been lost due to elimination of a mudflat in the estuary by dumping dredged spoil on it. Flooding of the local town (Drogheda) and local houses had been associated with this loss. He also pointed out that another manmade intervention (the building of training walls at the mouth of the river Boyne) is associated with erosion of coastal sand dunes and stripping of sand from the local beaches and suggested that the hard coastal defence solutions used to prevent erosion at Laytown are far from ideal. Unless artificial reed beds are constructed to "purify" effluent, on the basis of their biological properties, he suggested that their functional efficiency may not be optimal. The "life support" systems of intertidal mudflats were then considered in relation to the birdlife on the Boyne estuary. Because of the large numbers of species and individual migratory birds that frequent the estuary the area has qualified for designation under the EU "Birds" and "Habitats" directives. However since the estuary was designated as an SPA in 1999 approximately 9% of the area of the estuary has been lost mostly through activities of Drogheda Port Company, which has not provided recognisable compensation for the losses. However, he pointed out that there was some good news in relation to some of the local wetlands - the Meath Coast. The number of plastic bags found on the Meath coast during the Coastwatch survey of 2003 appears to be decreasing, most likely in response to the national tax on plastic bags.
Larry Lenehan of Birdwatch Ireland led the group on a walk along the Nanny river and mudflats with the aim of identify the birdlife present. Although it was late in the day and the tide was going out Redshank, Curlew, Widgeon, Mallard, Shelduck and Moorhen were seen.