Wetlands database

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Resource or Project Abstract

The River Basin Management Plan (WFD Ireland, 2009) aims to protect and, where necessary, improve all waters in individual River Basin Districts (RBDs). It aims to achieve four environmental objectives by 2015 (WFD Ireland, 2009): prevention of deterioration in status of all surface and groundwaters; restoration of at least good ecological status of all waters; reduction of surface water pollution from priority substances; and achievement of water related protected areas objectives. A key mechanism by which this can be achieved is through the use of either natural or constructed wetlands (CWs). Both systems offer a sustainable, ecologically diverse habitat, and are effective in reducing point discharges of municipal wastewater and diffuse discharges from agricultural sources.
All of the areas requiring special attention within the Western RBD, including those which do not achieve favourable conservation status, have been identified (lists available on www.wfdireland.ie). These include important freshwater fish systems, shellfish waters, special areas of conservation, and freshwater Pearl Mussel catchments protected under the EU Habits Directive. Constructed and natural wetlands are a relatively low cost attenuation and treatment method that may be used in the confluence of ecologically and nutrient sensitive areas and high quality areas. However, the data based on their efficacy are relatively scarce and more information is required ? specifically data linking mass-balance of pollutants, biodiversity richness and flood attenuation ? on their performance in Ireland, and particularly in sensitive areas in the western RBD.
Constructed wetlands
The use of CWs for the treatment of domestic, municipal (Healy and Cawley, 2002) and agricultural wastewaters (Harrington and McInnes, 2009) is gaining in popularity in Ireland. This is mainly due to population distribution, as well as the unsuitability of some of the land for traditional septic tank and percolation areas. As most of the land in Ireland is unsuitable for percolation, municipal wastewater is conventionally treated using activated sludge treatment plants, which often use CWs as a polishing step. Presently, there are over 140 CWs used for the treatment of municipal, industrial and agricultural wastewater in Ireland (Healy and O? Flynn, 2011).
Over the years, limited work has been conducted in Ireland on the treatment efficiency of CWs in terms of performance or nutrient uptake by the emergent vegetation (Healy and Cawley, 2002; Healy et al., 2007a). These studies often focused on individual systems that were monitored over a number of years (Healy and Cawley, 2002; Dunne et al., 2005; Harrington et al., 2007). Monitoring has been performed by local authorities, but frequently these do not attempt to conduct mass balances on nutrients and solids, nor do they consider update/absorbance by vegetation or soil. Healy and O? Flynn (2011) provided the first published data on the performance of free-water surface flow CWs treating primary and secondary-treated municipal wastewater, and agricultural dairy soiled water (DSW) in Ireland. Healy and O? Flynn (2011) and others have identified gaps in CW research in Ireland, including:
(1) the dearth of data from fully instrumented wetlands ? There are very few studies in Ireland which monitor concentration and flows into and out of wetlands over sustained (2-3 yr) period of time. In addition, few studies attempt to conduct a mass balance or consider soil media or vegetation within these systems. There is a need for robust data on specific wetland systems.
(2) the effect of vegetation on performance - In Ireland, a mixture of emergent, submersed and floating vegetation are used in CWs (Harty and Otte, 2003). As the type of vegetation used to colonize CWs affects performance, it is important that appropriate vegetation is identified. In addition, the management of vegetation is important for the sustainability of a CW. Harvesting, although perhaps not contributing significantly to nutrient removal (Healy et al., 2007a), may help improve the functioning of a CW, as dense vegetation can contribute towards internal nutrient loading as plants decompose.
(3) The effect of HLR, residence time and temperature on performance - The determination of a critical HLR, HRT and water temperature which provides optimal performance is crucial. Related to this is the relationship between OLR and outlet concentration. Optimal OLRs for CWs are well defined (Healy et al., 2007b), but HLR and HRT can also impact on performance. However, there is a lack of consensus in the literature regarding the nature of their impact.
Natural wetlands
Natural wetlands are considered as some of the most ecologically and economically important habitats worldwide. Covering between seven and ten million km2 globally, they provide many important ecosystem services (Keddy, 2000; Lehner and Döll, 2004), including the provision of essential habitats for wetland plant and invertebrate communities, water filtration and flood control. Nevertheless, wetlands have been, and continue to be lost at significant rates. Two-thirds of European wetlands were lost during the 20th century due to anthropogenic activities (EC, 1995) such as draining, dredging and infilling (Mitsch and Gosselink, 2007), with agriculture being one of the main driving forces behind the loss (Chen et al. 2012). While it is possible that CWs could redress, at least in part, the loss of natural wetland ecosystem, little work, to date, has examined this in detail.
In Ireland, natural wetlands that most closely resemble CWs in terms of dominant plant species composition are the reed and large sedge swamps and, to a lesser extent, tall-herb swamps (Fossitt, 2000). Swamps consist of stands of emergent vegetation occupying an ecotone between wet and dry habitats and while water levels may vary throughout the year, the water table generally remains above ground level. They are frequently found in still or slow moving waters in river flood meadows, lake edges (Fossitt, 2000), or permanently wet areas in turloughs (Moran et al., 2008a). Much research at NUI Galway has been undertaken on turloughs in recent years (Moran et al, 2012, 2008a, 2008b; Williams et al 2009a, 2009b; Williams & Gormally, 2009;Sheehy Skeffington et al, 2006; Ryder et al, 2005), with particular emphasis on the use of Sciomyzidae (Diptera) as bioindicators. Indeed, Speight (1986) suggested Sciomyzidae (Diptera) as suitable bio-indicators of wetland habitat quality listing supporting taxonomic, biogeographic, biological and logistic criteria, all of which are satisfied by Sciomyzidae (Rozkosňy´1995). In addition, Keiper et al. (2002) highlighted Sciomyzidae for their high abundance and species richness and for their microhabitat specificity on wetlands. Williams et al (2009a) also provide evidence for high microhabitat specificity in Sciomyzidae at a turlough site and indicate a major influence of vegetation structure and hydrological regime on their ecology. Given the multidisciplinary nature of the proposed project (i.e. water quality, flood attenuation / performance and vegetation measurements), using Sciomyzidae to assess biodiversity has obvious advantages.
The aim of this project is to compare natural and constructed wetlands in terms of biodiversity richness, water quality management and flood attenuation in the Western River Basin District. Natural wetlands, located in a protected area of the WRBD which does not achieve favourable conservation status and are of poor ecological status, will be monitored at the inlet and outlet over a 3-year study duration. These natural wetlands may be receiving either point discharges of municipal wastewater or diffuse discharges arising from overgrazing or chronic losses arising from over-application of organic and artificial fertilisers. The performance of artificial (constructed) wetlands receiving primary and secondary treated wastewater will also be examined. Comparison of both systems will be in terms of (1) wastewater purification (2) biodiversity and (3) nutrient uptake in vegetation (4) hydraulic loading and flood management.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Mark Healy
National University of Ireland, Galway

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Data, Files, Information Objects Related To This Project Resource

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att 1    Mulkeen_et_al._2017_(habitat_paper).pdf   (1.53 Mb)
Att 2    CW_Performance_Database_(1).xlsx   (2.18 Mb)

Suggested Citation Information

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Author(s)Healy, M.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationWetlands database
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL https://eparesearch.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=34b161c5-d55b-11e5-ab63-005056ae0019
Unique Identifier34b161c5-d55b-11e5-ab63-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-06-20

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Healy, M.   "Wetlands database". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland https://eparesearch.epa.ie/safer/resource?id=34b161c5-d55b-11e5-ab63-005056ae0019 (Last Accessed: 2024-06-20)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL https://eparesearch.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/display?isoID=3115
Resource Keywordswetlands; wastewater; database;
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2013-B-PhD-12
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeEnvironmental Technologies
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceNONE
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Sunday 2nd February 2014 (02-02-2014)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Sunday 2nd February 2014 (02-02-2014)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Wednesday 17th February 2016 (17-02-2016)
Published on SAFERWednesday 17th February 2016 (17-02-2016)
Date of Last EditThursday 13th July 2017 at 10:31:39 (13-07-2017)
Datasets or Files Updated On Thursday 13th July 2017 at 10:31:39 (13-07-2017)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
The database comprises all available information (at the time of writing - Feb 17, 2016) on the performance of constructed wetlands in Ireland. We have a website through which the user may interrogate the data at http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~space/water/public/; however, we will be soon porting this over to the GENE research group webpage (http://www.nuigalway.ie/gene/). If the DCU url is not active, please refer to the NUI Galway url above.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
This is the first such database in Ireland. No other centralized database exists.
Supplementary Information
Water quality parameters at inlet and outlet, along with influent waste water source tabulated.
Links To Other Related Resources
Database available at   http://www.redbrick.dcu.ie/~space/water/public/ (Opens in a new window) at the time of writing (Feb 17, 2016), but in time it will be ported over to an NUI Galway domain. If the above url is dead, please refer to   http://www.nuigalway.ie/gene/ (Opens in a new window) for access to the database.

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