World Wetlands Day 2004 -- Ireland


PRESS RELEASE (26th January 2004)

Marking World Wetlands Day in the South Eastern River Basin District

The 2nd of February is World Wetlands Day 2004. Each year, activities are organised worldwide to raise public awareness of value and benefits of wetland in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular. The Convention was signed by all 138 Contraction Parties, including Ireland, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the 2nd February 1971. It's purpose was to promote and facilitate national action and international co-operation aimed at the conservation and wise use of wetlands. In Ireland wetlands include rivers, lakes, turloughs, marshes, fens, bogs and estuaries.

Each year, a theme for World Wetlands Day is selected to celebrate a particular aspect of wetlands around us. The theme for WWD 2004 is "From the mountains to the sea - Wetlands at work for us". This theme is as relevant to wetlands here in Ireland with our maritime climate as it is in such wetlands as the Okavango Delta in a semi-arid region of Sub-Saharan Africa, the world's largest Ramsar Site. Often we forget just how important wetlands around us are. Wetlands are working for us all the time; storing and purifying freshwater; controlling floods; replenishing groundwater supplies; stabilising the shoreline; protecting against storms; acting as nurseries for freshwater or marine fish; providing us with food, water, a place for recreation and education and a transport medium. If we wish to continue harnessing the benefits of wetlands careful management and wise use are essential.

On 22nd December 2003 Ireland took an important step towards securing the future protection of all waters (rivers, lakes, coastal waters, and groundwater) and their wetlands by transposing the new EU Water Framework Directive into Irish law. This Directive is the most significant legal instrument in the area of water management and will have a profound effect on how water is managed in Europe over the next twenty-five years.

The island of Ireland has been divided into eight administrative river basin districts, based on river basin areas. The South Eastern River Basin District (SERBD) Management Project was established by local authorities in April 2002 to contribute towards implementation of the Directive. The district comprises of the Barrow, Nore, Suir and Slaney river basins along with smaller basins in the coastal areas of Wexford and Waterford, an area of some 14,000 square kilometres or 20% of the area of the Irish Republic, and covering twelve counties in the south east.

According to Dr. Colin Byrne, the Project Co-ordinator, "The overall aim of the Project is to develop a River Basin Management Plan aimed at achieving 'good' water status in all waters by 2015. An important aspect of the project is that it invites all stakeholders including; industrialists, farmers; citizens; and regulators alike; to play a part in developing a well considered and practical management approach to water status (quality and quantity) in the region". The Project Manager, Grace Glasgow, added "The Directive requires us to take measures to protect and, where necessary, improve the quality of waters and their wetlands. In the case of specially protected areas such as the forty-five Ramsar-designated sites nationally more stringent measures may be required to protect them. Seven of these Ramsar sites lie within the SERBD."

"Public participation is essential to the success of the SERBD Project, particularly in helping to implement the measures to protect all waters and their wetlands" said Dr. Byrne. A Public Participation Plan for 2004 has just been finalised. The focus of activities in 2004 will be the Characterisation of the SERBD. Dr. Byrne explained "in plain terms this is a systematic description of the river basins and environmental pressures impacting on all waters within them. It is an important first step in the river basin planning process. The Project's public participation activities will endeavour to raise awareness and involve people in this process".

To mark World Wetlands Day (WWD), local authorities in the south east including Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford (City and County), Laois, South Tipperary, Kildare, Wicklow, Offaly and North Tipperary will have public information material, including leaflets, posters and a video, on display in the public areas of their main offices, from 2nd to the 6th of February. Anybody wishing to find out more about the SERBD Project can visit the following website or phone the Project Co-ordinator, Dr. Colin Byrne at 059-9136247.

Contact: Dr. Colin Byrne (Carlow Co Co.). Phone: 059-9136247 or e-mail:
Note: Information on Ramsar sites in SERBD attached. Leaflet (PDF)

Background Information on Ramsar sites in the SERBD

1) Dungarvan Harbour. 11/06/96; 1,041 ha; 52º03'N 007º35'W. Special Protection Area EC Directive. A coastal bay sheltered by a spit, exposing extensive mud and sand flats at low tide. The site includes beach and dune systems, salt and freshwater marsh. Internationally important numbers of wintering waterbirds use the site and nationally or locally important numbers of numerous other species are supported. The sand flats support extensive oyster farming. Ramsar site no. 839.

2) Pollardstown Fen. 30/05/90; Kildare; 130 ha; 53º11'N 006º51'W. Biogenetic Reserve; Nature Reserve. The largest remaining spring-fed fen in Ireland. Habitats include semi-natural fen, damp grassland, woodland, and open water. The open water attracts waterbirds in regionally important numbers. The fen supports an important assemblage of invertebrate fauna and contains a complete palaeoecological record dating back to the last glaciation. Interpretive material and an observation hide are available. Ramsar site no. 474.

3) Raven, The. 31/07/86; Wexford; 589 ha; 52º20'N 006º19'W. Special Protection Area EC Directive; Nature Reserve. A sand-dune spit protecting Wexford Harbour from the sea. The tip is highly mobile, with constantly changing patterns of recurves, lagoons and sand bars. The unforested foredunes support a well-developed native vegetation, including various nationally rare species. The site provides important roosting sites for passage terns and supports a small nesting colony of the tern Sterna albifrons. Internationally important numbers of the globally vulnerable goose Anser albifrons flavirostris winter at the site and large numbers of waders roost at high tide. The site is managed for timber. Ramsar site no. 333.

4) Slieve Bloom Mountains. 31/07/86; Offaly, Laois; 2,230 ha; 53º03'N 007º38'W. Biogenetic Reserve; Nature Reserve. The largest and most intact area of mountain blanket bog known in Ireland. Features include areas of well-developed hummock, hollow and pool systems. Vegetation consists of a dwarf shrub and herb layer and extensive cover of Sphagnum moss. An absence of rock outcrops limits species and habitat diversity, except in valleys where seepage areas and streams provide increased nutrients. Ramsar site no. 335.

5) Tramore Backstrand. 11/06/96; Waterford; 367 ha; 52º10'N 007º07'W. Special Protection Area EC Directive. A shingle spit across a shallow bay with well-developed dunes and back strands that dry out at low tide. All major vegetation types are found from strand flora, through mobile dunes to stable grassland and saltmarsh. The flora is particularly rich, consisting of various protected species. The site supports nationally and internationally important numbers of shorebirds. Human activities include cockle collection. Ramsar site no. 835.

6) Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. 15/11/84; Wexford; 194 ha; 52º30'N 006º20'W. Special Protection Area EC Directive; Nature Reserve. Low-lying areas of empoldered farmland dissected by numerous drainage ditches created by draining an estuarine embayment. Water levels are controlled for irrigation and flood prevention. The site forms part of the world's most important wintering site for the vulnerable goose Anser albifrons flavirostris (world population about 30,000), which nests in Greenland, stages in Iceland and winters in Ireland and the UK. The average count of A. a. flavirostris wintering at the site is 32% of the world population. Several other passage and wintering waterbirds use the site. Ramsar site no. 291.

7) Bannow Bay. 11/06/96; Wexford; 958 ha; 52º27'N 006º17'W. Special Protection Area EC Directive. A sea bay with extensive mud and sand flats, saltmarsh, and sand dunes. The site supports an important range of wintering waterbird species, including Anas acuta, Calidris canutus, Pluvialis squatarola. It is a habitat for internationally important numbers (938) of Brent geese Branta bernicla hrota. Ramsar site no. 840.

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