Now showing 1 - 8 of 8
  • Publication
    ESManage Programme: Irish Freshwater Resources and Assessment of Ecosystem Services Provision
    Freshwater is vital for all forms of life and it is a key requirement in almost all human activities. The societal importance of water has been highlighted by the United Nations, with access to clean water and sanitation regarded as a universal human right. Consequently, the sustainable management of freshwater resources has gained importance at regional, international and global scales. However, the activities of humankind affect freshwater resources extensively, in terms of both quantity and quality, through a variety of activities ranging from abstraction of water for drinking and irrigation to waste disposal. Today, worldwide freshwater ecosystems are undergreat pressure and are one of the most endangered ecosystems. Furthermore, climate change, especially in relation to precipitation patterns and flooding, will result in the traditional norms being replaced with increased variability and unpredictability, with knock-on effects for human societies and well-being.
  • Publication
    The significance of biodiversity in agriculture: relevance, aims and progress of the Ag-Biota Project
    We describe and review the scientific and policy background with respect to the impact of agriculture on biodiversity and outline the structure and objectives of the Ag-Biota Project. The latter is a large, multiinstitutional study funded by the ERTDI Programme (2000–2006) under the aegis of the National Development Plan. As such, Ag-Biota represents an ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of biodiversity, and the integration of policy towards the achievement of these goals in all economic sectors. Ag-Biota is addressing directly the practical needs for agri-environmental policy development, such as the need to identify suitable biodiversity indicators for agriculture and begin the development of realistic and practical monitoring and assessment methods; is focussing on the development of ecological understanding concerning the more effective utilisation of beneficial biological populations and processes within the agro-ecosystem; and is asking more fundamental ecological questions concerning the functional role and significance of biological diversity in community structures. The Ag-Biota project represents a suitably policy-focussed response to, and a considerable investment in, the needs of Irish biodiversity research within the context of modern agriculture. As such, we feel that the project is a good model for future biodiversity research, addressing the need for information and an appropriate knowledge base to support practical environmental protection measures.
  • Publication
    Incorporation of Ecosystem Services values in the Integrated Management of Irish Freshwater Resources - ESManage
    The ESManage project tested an eight-step methodological framework to help embed ecosystem services and the ecosystem services approach into policy and decision-making for the sustainable management of water resources, as required by the Water Framework Directive (WFD). It involved identification of relevant freshwater ecosystem services, prediction of how they change when management measures are implemented and economic valuation of those changes. The focus of the research was on ecosystem services from rivers, engaging stakeholders in three case study catchments to explore the ecosystem services derived from these very different rivers and undertake economic valuation of the benefits that people obtain from enhancements to ecosystem services in those rivers. Modelling, using both a hydrological and a nutrient load apportionment model, was used to quantify changes in flows and inputs of pollutants (nutrients and sediment) associated with the alternative catchment management scenarios (e.g. intensification, extensification and riparian measures such as tree planting), whereas Bayesian belief network modelling was used to predict the resulting changes in ecological responses and their effects on selected ecosystem services (e.g. clean water, angling, wildlife). The focus was on managing diffuse pollution from agriculture, assuming unchanged inputs from domestic septic tanks and point sources, e.g. wastewater treatment plants, that also contribute to water quality problems in the study catchments. The intensification scenarios considered potentially pro rata changes in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment inputs assumed to arise from an increase in stocking density, whereas extensification related to the corresponding effects as a result of reductions in stocking density. The “choice experiment” valuation technique was then used to quantify the economic benefits that people obtained from enhancements to river ecosystem services. In addition, data were collected on the cost of wastewater treatment to demonstrate the benefits of natural regulating ecosystem services.
  • Publication
    Different bioindicators measured at different spatial scales vary in their response to agricultural intensity
    Ecologically, potential bioindicator taxa operate at different scales within agricultural ecosystems, and thereby provide a means to investigate the influence of changing management practice on biological diversity at different scales within the agro-ecosystem. Surveys of grassland plant species at field level, parasitoid Hymenoptera at the field and farm scale, and bird populations and habitats at farm scale were carried out on 119 grass-based farms across three regions in the Republic of Ireland. In addition, habitat richness and aquatic macroinvertebrates were quantified at landscape scale. Agricultural intensity on the surveyed farms was quantified by mean farm stocking rate, calculated as livestock units per ha (LU/ha), and generalised linear mixed models used to evaluate relationships between stocking rate and the incidence of chosen bioindicator groups. Field scale bioindicators (plant species richness and parasitoid taxon richness and abundance) were negatively associated with mean farm stocking rate. Over much of its observed range, mean farm stocking rate was positively associated with total bird species richness and abundance, and the species richness and abundance of farmland bird indicator species recorded in the winter season. However, these relationships were quadratic, and above a relatively high upper limit of 2.5–3.5 LU/ha, further increase in farm stocking rate had a negative influence. Results demonstrate that different bioindicators measured at different spatial scales vary in their response to agricultural intensity. The lack of a consistent bioindicator response to farm stocking rate suggests that within predominantly farmed regions, maximising biodiversity requires a careful targeting and monitoring with bioindicator taxa that are informative of influences at relevant operational scales. The insights provided may then be much more informative for the design and implementation of agri-environment measures that maximise biodiversity within farmed landscapes.
      969Scopus© Citations 22
  • Publication
    Challenges in using hydrology and water quality models for assessing freshwater ecosystem services: A review
    Freshwater ecosystems contribute to many ecosystem services, many of which are being threatened by human activities such as land use change, river morphological changes, and climate change. Many disciplines have studied the processes underlying freshwater ecosystem functions, ranging from hydrology to ecology, including water quality, and a panoply of models are available to simulate their behaviour. This understanding is useful for the prediction of ecosystem services, but the model outputs must go beyond the production of time-series of biophysical variables, and must facilitate the beneficial use of the information it contains about the ecosystem services it describes. This article analyses the literature of ad hoc approaches that aim at quantifying one or more freshwater ecosystem services. It identifies the strategies adopted to use disciplinary-specific models for the prediction of the services. This review identifies that hydrological, water quality, and ecological models form a valuable knowledge base to predict changes in ecosystem conditions, but challenges remain to make proper and fruitful use of these models. In particular, considerations of temporal and spatial scales could be given more attention in order to provide better justifications for the choice of a particular model over another, including the uncertainty in their predictions.
      337Scopus© Citations 17
  • Publication
    The impact of a catastrophic storm event on benthic macroinvertebrate communities in upland headwater streams and potential implications for ecological diversity and assessment of ecological status
    Upland headwater streams are dynamic systems, responding rapidly to changes in climatic conditions. This study examined the effects of a catastrophic rainfall event, that occured on 24 October 2011 on the east coast of Ireland, on the macroinvertebrate community composition and structure of four headwater streams in the river Liffey catchment located in the Wicklow Mountains. The ecological status before and after the storm were also evaluated. The water level and pH of each stream were recorded using continuous monitoring equipment, while rainfall data for the study period were sourced from a local weather station. Benthic macroinvertebrates were investigated before and after the storm event using Surber sampling. Results showed rapid and large increases in water level and significant declines in stream pH in response to intensive rainfall during the storm. The high water levels also caused major physical damage and abrasion in all four streams, that significantly altered instream habitats. The storm event induced significant losses to the richness and/or density of most taxonomic groups, with the exception of the Plecoptera. Furthermore, the overall community composition and structure changed significantly, most likely as a result of physical disturbance, given the relative persistence of acid-sensitive taxa and the relatively short period of harsh acidic conditions (<5 pH). Interestingly however, the ecological status of each of the four study sites, tested using Stream Risk Score (SSRS), Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP) and the Average Score Per Taxon (ASPT) indices, was unaltered by the loss in richness and densities. This was likely a result of the maintenance of plecopteran richness and the absence of organic pollution, thus highlighting the need to develop appropriate indices to assess the ecological status of streams and rivers affected by physical disturbance caused by large storm events. Ultimately, catastrophic storm events in upland headwater streams have potentially major implications for the maintenance of regional macroinvertebrate diversity within affected regions.
  • Publication
    Water quality monitoring during the construction of the M3 motorway in Ireland
    The M3 motorway in Ireland was constructed between the years 2007 and 2010. The motorway crosses the River Boyne, which is a designated salmonid water under the EU Freshwater directive, and its tributaries. The paper describes the measures taken to mitigate any potential impacts which the road scheme might have had on the aquatic environment and the water quality of the Boyne watercourses before-, during- and post-construction. The success of the mitigation measures undertaken is assessed by: (a) comparing pre-construction, during-construction and post-construction water quality data, (b) comparing measured water quality with relevant standards, (c) comparing water quality data upstream and downstream of river crossings, (d) the establishment of a pilot-scale real-time water quality monitoring station at the downstream end of the works before discharge into the river Boyne. The study concluded that the measures taken have been successful in minimising the water quality impacts associated with the road scheme.
      1219Scopus© Citations 6
  • Publication
    Identifying spawning sites and other critical habitat in lotic systems using eDNA “snapshots”: A case study using the sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus L.
    Many aquatic species of conservation concern exist at low densities and are inherently difficult to detect or monitor using conventional methods. However, the introduction of environmental (e)DNA has recently transformed our ability to detect these species and enables effective deployment of limited conservation resources. Identifying areas for breeding, as well as the ecological distribution of species, is vital to the survival or recovery of a conservation species (i.e., areas of critical habitat). In many species, spawning events are associated with a higher relative abundance of DNA released within an aquatic system (i.e., gametes, skin cells etc.), making this the ideal time to monitor these species using eDNA techniques. This study aims to examine whether a “snapshot” eDNA sampling approach (i.e., samples taken at fixed points in chronological time) could reveal areas of critical habitat including spawning sites for our target species Petromyzon marinus. We utilized a species‐specific qPCR assay to monitor spatial and temporal patterns in eDNA concentration within two river catchments in Ireland over three consecutive years. We found that eDNA concentration increased at the onset of observed spawning activity and patterns of concentration increased from downstream to upstream over time, suggesting dispersal into the higher reaches as the spawning season progressed. We found P. marinus to be present upstream of several potential barriers to migration, sometimes in significant numbers. Our results also show that the addition of a lamprey‐specific fish pass at an “impassable” weir, although assisting in ascent, did not have any significant impact on eDNA concentration upstream after the pass had been installed. eDNA concentration was also found to be significantly correlated with both the number of fish and the number of nests encountered. The application of snapshot sampling techniques for species monitoring therefore has substantial potential for the management of low‐density species in fast‐moving aquatic systems.
      350Scopus© Citations 29