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The Importance of Wetlands

The Importance of Wetlands

A combination of geology and abundant rain has endowed Ireland with an extraordinary array of wetlands covering some 20% of the country. While most wetlands occur naturally they may also be artificially created. Mary Roache Mayo ASSAP Advisor has examples of a variety of wetlands that occur on farms

Naturally Occurring Wetlands

Naturally occurring wetlands include lakes, rivers, bogs, turloughs, fens, saltmarshes, swamps and wet woodlands, produced as a result of environmental processes. Artificial wetlands include fishponds, farm ponds, reservoirs, quarry ponds, constructed wetlands, drainage ditches and canals.

Many wetlands are protected under EU environmental legislation and forty five of Ireland’s wetlands are Ramsar sites.  These sites are internationally important and are part of a global network of wetland sites. Functional wetlands are among our most productive environments and provide us with a vast array of eco-system services.

  • Wetlands support biodiversity; 40% of all species live or breed in wetlands
  • Wetlands store 30% of land – based carbon; vital for climate change mitigation
  • Wetlands remove pollutants from circulation.
  • Wetlands provide protection from flooding and storms
  • Wetlands absorb and store water
  • Wetlands provide employment, food and energy.
  • Wetlands are places for recreation, culture and leisure.

The biodiversity of wetlands in Ireland has been estimated to be worth €385 million per year to the Irish economy. The vast amount of wetlands occur on farmland and so we must manage these correctly. Farmers should identify such areas on the farm and avoid any drainage that may affect them. Maintain buffer zones adjacent to wetlands from nutrients and pesticides and keep grazing to a sustainable level. Some may need fencing off to protect them while other wetlands need active appropriate management such as controlling invasive species or letting light into neglected ponds. Farmers play a key role in this conservation and “wise use of wetlands” so that these unique areas exist and continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

You can read more about wetlands and the Ramsar sites in the Irish Wetlands Guide here and you can read the Teagasc Farming and wetlands leaflet here (PDF)