Welcome to www.wetlands.ie. This website will try to bring you some information about freshwater wetlands in Ireland.
So what is a wetland? If we think about the natural environment which surrounds us, it is made up of several types of landscapes, which are easily recognisable as being different from each other. Ecologists often call these different landscapes ‘habitats‘. Habitats are just types of landscapes where things live (plants & animals). Sometimes, you can predict what types of plants and animals might live in an area if you know something about the landscape. There are woodlands, grasslands, mountain terrain, seaside habitats like the sandy shore and the rocky shore and there are limestone-pavement habitats, like the Burren. There are rivers and lakes. And then there are marshes, bogs, swamps and other types of habitat where the ground is typically very wet most of the time or even permanently – these are often known collectively as wetlands.
There are thousands of wetlands in Ireland, scattered all over the country. Some are large and some are very small. Many of the larger and more “important” wetlands have been identified and singled out for special protection, for example, under the objectives of the Ramsar Convention.
Ireland ratified the Ramsar Convention in 1985 and now a total of 45 Irish wetlands, making up an area of almost 67,000 hectares (that’s the size of one-hundred Phoenix Parks!) in various parts of the country, are specifically protected under the Ramsar Convention. The Irish Ramsar Wetlands Committee (or IRWC) was set up by the Government in November 2010 to assist Ireland in meeting its requirements as a signatory to the Ramsar Convention. The committee is a widely representative group, set up to assist in the protection, appreciation and understanding of wetlands in Ireland and to promote the implementation of the Ramsar Convention. Membership of the committee is drawn from a variety of relevant government agencies, scientific and technical institutions, regional and local authorities and non-governmental organisations. The group has a very nice website (http://irishwetlands.ie/) explaining its goals, objectives and its ongoing activities.
This site (www.wetlands.ie) will focus, not only on very big and important wetlands, but also on smaller and less well-known ones, including those ones that might not enjoy very much attention or protection from the authorities. All told, there are a great many of these wetlands all over the country, making up an area much larger than the total area of the 45 individual sites protected under Ramsar. So, smaller wetlands should be seen as important too! Because many of the smaller wetlands are not protected in any formal way, they are at risk from drainage, pollution, development of lands for construction, road-making, reclamation of farmland and inappropriate uses such as dumping sites for wastes. Climate change may also impact rainfall patterns in ways that will threaten our wetlands, so we need to understand this risk much better, in order to better protect the wetlands into the future.