Wetlands Ireland


The website is currently undergoing significant re-organisation and updating in order to be ready for the International Wetlands Day on 02/02/2022. It is hoped to have this improvement work completed in the coming few weeks (before the end of September 2021)

Welcome to www.wetlands.ie. This website will try to bring you 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 distinct habitats which are easily recognisable as being different from each other. 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.

Global protection for wetlands is led by the RAMSAR organization. There are 45 RAMSAR sites in Ireland currently.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. If you would like to know some more about the World Wetlands Day (2nd February every year), which is promoted by the Ramsar Convention organisation, there is some great information about it on the Ramsar website, at this link.  In 2021, because of the pandemic restrictions there were very few face-to-face events organised on World Wetland Day. Hopefully, this website will bring you lots of news about the planned events in 2022 – remember the date – 2nd February 2022!

This site will focus as much on smaller, less well-known freshwater wetlands, ones that might not enjoy very much attention or protection from the authorities. By ‘small’ we mean wetlands with an area of less than 10 hectares. There are a great many of these wetlands all over the country, making up an area much larger than the total area of the larger wetlands 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.

Big News

There are 2 interesting stories about Irish wetlands in the news right now.

Water Quality:

An RTE news story about rewetting of boglands in County Wicklow.

A project to rewet a bog in Co Wicklow is expected to increase water quality and storage for areas supplied by the River Liffey. The work on the Liffey Head Bog will also capture carbon and help biodiversity. It is a joint venture by the National arks and Wildlife Service and Intel.


Ecologists in Bord na Móna say they’re excited and optimistic that a rare pair of common cranes, which have arrived in the midlands, will become the first to breed here in over 300 years.  This may be the early signs that the new policy of rewetting cut-over peatlands and turning them back into wetlands may be yielding results.

Handy resources that you can use:

If you are interested in getting to know more about our wetlands and about their ecology and biodiversity you could check out the following publications.

Wetlands Guide

Here is the press release related to the recent launch of the Wetlands Guide: https://www.chg.gov.ie/wetlands-guide-published-irish-wetlands-worth-e385m-to-the-economy/

The NPWS website news section:https://www.npws.ie/news/wetlands-guide-and-field-survey-manual-published

Biodiversity and Wetlands resources

EPA’s Biodiversity in our Wetlands resource for second-level schools: http://www.epa.ie/researchandeducation/education/educ/protectedsoilbiodiversity/biodiversityinourwetlands/

It’s pitched at 12-16 year old students, which means that the material could be suitable for the any interested member of the public who just wants to know the basics.

Press release on Exploring Irish wetland habitats: EPA launches new schools’ resources


Geo Tool

Online tool for Wetland Appropriate Assessment: http://www.epa.ie/newsandevents/news/pressreleases2018/name,64001,en.html

What is a small freshwater wetland?

There are lots of different types of wetlands. Some are very large, some are inundated with salt-water or with brackish water, others are under-water all the time and others are only “wet” at some times depending on the season or on the tides. Some are covered with peat and others are covered by forest. There are lots of definitions and not everyone will agree that a particular definition is accurate.

On this website we will use the following definition, just so everyone knows what type of wetlands we are interested in:

Areas of land, less than 10 hectares in extent, which are inundated or saturated by fresh surface water or groundwater at a frequency and for a duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.

This definition is based on an important definition adopted by the US Government under the Clean Water Act (1984), but our definition is modified to eliminate larger wetlands and to eliminate wetlands that depend on saltwater.

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