Celebrate World Wetlands Day - 2nd February 2018

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Dublin City Council is celebrating Ramsar International World Wetlands Day on Feb 2nd by inviting people to visit the city’s wetlands at North Bull Island and Sandymount Strand.

Wetlands are areas saturated by water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, static or flowing, fresh, brackish, or marine.  Wetland habitat types in Ireland are typically marsh, swamp, bog, fen, turlough, lagoons, salt marshes, estuaries and wet woodlands.  

Worldwide wetlands ensure humanity has fresh water, they purify harmful waste from water, they provide a food source mainly in terms of fish and rice for billions of people and many livelihoods are dependent on them especially in developing countries.

Wetlands are bursting with biodiversity and provide a refuge for wildlife.  Wetlands are places to play and visit and are key sites for tourism water sports, fishing and nature exploration.  A future without wetlands would result in the loss of all these key services particularly access to clean water.

According to Ramsar, the international champion for wetlands, an estimated 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900 due to their conversion to agricultural land, infill for building and industry and excessive drainage.  In the coming decades there will be more pressure on wetlands as people move to cities. 4 billion people lived in urban settings in 2016 and this is set to increase to 6.3 billion by 2050.  Wetlands have been misperceived as wastelands rather than lands to be prized.   
This year we want to highlight that our Urban wetlands make our cities liveable by:

  • replenishing our drinking water supplies found in ground water aquifers and rainwater collection areas.  During the dry seasons, they release the water stored, delaying the onset of droughts and reducing water shortages.
  • offering us a protection against the extreme effects of climate change, flooding, coastal erosion and drought.  They act as a natural safe guard against disasters and help us cope with extreme weather events.  For example when a river or run off from streets becomes swollen due to extreme rainfall of  flooding or there is an the inward surge of the sea into coastal cities due to storms the wetland absorb the increased water and slow the power and energy of flow thereby preventing structural damage to homes and infrastructure.  Well managed wetlands ensure communities are resilient and can bounce back from disasters.    
  • filtering waste from water and improving water quality.  The filtering properties of wetlands can be found in silt, microorganisms, some filter feeder molluscs, the root systems of plants.  Wetlands filter and absorb harmful toxins, agricultural pesticides, industrial waste and household sewage.  
  • improving the city air quality.  The high water content of a wetland and the lush vegetation allows the air above it to become radiated with moisture.  As climate change is contributing to hotter surface temperatures people are more likely to experience heat stroke and respiratory problems.  The problem will become acute in cities where additional heat radiates from vast populations, heating and cooking systems, buildings, vents, machinery, engines, lighting etc.  
  • promoting human wellbeing by providing green spaces within a city where people can rest and play and enjoy with their senses the diversity of nature that wetlands offer.
  • providing people with a living. The following livelihoods are associated with Dublin Bay, fisherman, scientist, recreational instructors, ferry operator, provider of port and harbour services for shipping, film services,  tourism, food and drinks industry, public service provision of parks, Nature Reserves and open spaces, educators for nature interpretation, art and creativity.    

There are three main types of wetlands in Dublin City.

Marine and coastal wetlands. Examples are the mudflats, salt meadows and dune slacks at North Bull Island, the Strand at Sandymount and the Tolka River Estuary.  

Freshwater wetlands are typically marsh, swamps, wet grasslands, ponds, streams and canals.  These can be found in the city’s river bank parks along the Liffey, Tolka, and Dodder and at the formal and woodland ponds at St. Anne and Bushy Park.  

Constructed wetlands can be seen at Tolka Valley Park, and Ballymun’s Poppintree Park.   These were built to alleviate flooding and to purify water from old landfill and road run off.

Our wetlands in Dublin are very special and some are of European importance for wildlife.  At this time of year they are a great place to see winter water birds like ducks, the Light Bellied Brent Goose and waders. They are a key part of the water cycle for the city ensuring that Dublin Bay is an outstanding natural resource.  

The most important wetlands in Dublin City are in Dublin Bay North Bull Island and Sandymount Strand – both are designated by the RAMSAR International Treaty on Wetlands.

To learn more about wetlands and their importance for cities you can also visit a display in the Atrium, Civic offices between Feb 2 and Feb 16 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.  Photographs of North Bull Island by photographic wildlife enthusiasts, Brendan Norris and Martin Byrne from the Celbridge Camera Club will also be on display along with The Brent Goose Story and features from primary school children from across the city who have become powerful Brent Goose Ambassadors for the Dublin Bay Biosphere. The results from the 2017 Annual Coastwatch Survey will be on display along with information on Ramsar Wetlands and why they are important for Dublin City, Ireland and the planet.  On Feb 10th BirdWatch Ireland Dublin Bay Birds Project Team are holding a ring reading day for birdwatchers at North Bull Island, North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere, Dublin City Council between 10 am and 2 pm.