Latest EPA Research 2030 Reports

in: Research EPA Research Reports
Research Report 455

Innovative Monitoring to Priorities Contaminants of Emerging Concern for Ireland (IMPACT)

Imogen Hands, Helena Rapp-Wright, Marcin Penk, Damià Barceló Cullerès, Jeremy Piggott, Leon Barron, Fiona Regan and Blánaid White, April 2024

Year: 2024

Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) can be defined as “any synthetic or naturally occurring chemical or any microorganism that is not commonly monitored in the environment but has the potential to enter the environment and cause known or suspected adverse ecological and/or human health effects”. This research provides a comprehensive insight into the occurrence and fate of CECs in wastewater treatment effluent on entry to Irish receiving waters. Two wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), one urban and one rural were monitored for one year to identify the temporal and spatial occurrence of more than 100 CECs in the aquatic environment and the WWTPs influents and effluents. This work allows contaminants that are not efficiently removed during treatment of municipal effluents to be highlighted and enables an evidence-based prioritisation list of CECs to be developed in Ireland.

Research 454

Research 454: Farm-Carbon: Hedgerows and Non-forest Woodland (Hedgerow Carbon Project)

Authors: Lilian O’Sullivan, Gary Lanigan, Daire Ó hUallacháin, Shiva Rahimi-Tanha and Kevin Black, March 2024

Year: 2024

The EU aims to be climate neutral by 2050. Central to this ambition is land management that supports carbon sequestration, and enhancement of carbon sinks or the reversal of their emissions. Current national greenhouse gas emission inventory submissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change show that the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector is a net source of emissions in Ireland. However, emissions and removals are not currently disaggregated in national emission inventory estimates. Currently, hedgerows are not explicitly accounted for in national inventory reports.

Research 453

HydroPredict: Ensemble River Flow Scenarios for Climate Change Adaptation

Authors: Conor Murphy and Hadush Meresa, March 2024

Year: 2024

Higher greenhouse gas emissions are associated with large reductions in average summer and annual low flows in rivers. Changes in meteorological droughts in Ireland are driven by a transition to wetter winters and drier summers, together with increased evapotranspiration losses during summer and late spring months, leading to more frequent spring and summer droughts. The magnitude of future drought changes depends on future greenhouse gas emissions, with the most substantial changes found for higher emissions. Adapting to climate change in the water sector should place an increased emphasis on addressing the changing nature of droughts, especially across sensitive sectors. Using the latest climate models and emissions storylines, this research project assessed the projected impacts of climate change on flow conditions and droughts across 37 river catchments in Ireland.

Research 452

Public Exposure to Non-ionising Radiation from Major Electricity Infrastructure in Ireland

Authors: Anna Mölter, Hamed Jalilian, Martin Röösli, Frank de Vocht and Francesco Pilla, March 2024

Year: 2024

Major electricity infrastructure, such as high-voltage power lines, transformer stations and substations, emits non-ionising radiation in the form of extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF EMFs). Potential health effects associated with long-term exposure to ELF EMFs have been a concern since the late 1970s. However, epidemiological studies of health risks of ELF EMF exposure have reported varying results, and a causal relationship has not been established. This research report presents a review on the published literature in relation to populations exposure to ELF EMFs, epidemiological studies on associated health risks, current EU policies, monitoring strategies, methods to reduce exposure and strategies for risk communication.

Research 451

Research 451: Environmental and Techno-economic Assessment of Edible Packaging

Authors: Keteki Anand, Andrés Martínez Arce, Colin Fitzpatrick and David Styles, March 2024

Year: 2024

It is estimated that 550,000 cups per day are used in the Irish market alone, and that this could increase to an annual total of 300 million cups per year by 2025. Although there is a common perception among consumers that paper cups are recyclable, and thus a sustainable option, this is not necessarily true. These cups are lined with plastic, which is difficult to separate from the paper, and most paper cups are sent to residual waste streams for landfill or incineration. The concept of edible packaging has the potential to help address littering and waste management challenges from single-use disposable cups. EAT-Packaging undertook a life cycle assessment across a range of relevant cup types and engaged with national stakeholders to develop scenarios to identify where, when, and how edible cups (or alternative options) could reduce environmental impact for the functional unit of a cup containing a single drink.

Research 450

Research 450: Infrastructure Climate Change Risk Considering Interdependencies and Cascading Hazards

Authors: Ilaria Bernardini, Mark Tucker, Moreno Stellini and Emmanouil Kakouris, February 2024

Year: 2024

Extreme weather events such as storms, landslides, river floods and coastal phenomena have threatened and damaged many different regions across Ireland. These events, while rare and often short-lived, can have a devastating impact on critical infrastructure systems. As a result of climate change, these events are becoming more frequent and more intense, affecting not only physical infrastructure but also the environment and society as a whole. Using risk-based approaches in assessing the impacts of extreme weather events and climate change is a well-established method of identifying the most vulnerable infrastructure, assessing the risks posed to that infrastructure and developing strategies to minimise those risks. This report presents an overarching risk assessment methodology for assessing risks posed to critical infrastructure by climate change.

Research 449

Research 449: Transboundary Climate Risks for the Island of Ireland (TCRII)

Authors: Conor Murphy, Kevin Leonard, Rory Moore and Stephen Flood, February 2024

Year: 2024

The island of Ireland is one of the most open economies in the world for trade and finance. While Ireland’s open economy, trade and finance links have helped to generate significant wealth and improve living standards, this also makes Ireland among the most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts on international trade. Transboundary Climate Risks (TCRs) cross national borders and are associated with the impacts of climate change. The Transboundary Climate Risks for the Island of Ireland (TCRII) project undertook a literature review and worked with stakeholders to identify approaches for the assessment of TCRs and synergies that can be leveraged on an all-island basis. The findings informed recommendations for better accounting for these emerging risks, to realise the national climate objective of achieving a climate-resilient economy and society by 2050.

Research 448

Research 448: Antimicrobial Resistance and the Environment – Sources, Persistence, Transmission and Risk Management (AREST)

Authors: Dearbháile Morris, Niamh Cahill, Catherine Burgess, Enda Cummins, Finola Leonard, Brigid Hooban, Carlos Chique, Ciara Tyrrell, Shun Wang, Ciarán Monahan, Aoife Joyce, Kelly Fitzhenry, John Cullinan, Georgios Miliotis, Louise O’Connor, Deirdre Prendergast, Martin Cormican, Rita Gately, Rajat Nag, Fiona Brennan, Fiona Walsh and Xinmin Zhan, February 2024

Year: 2024

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is recognised globally as one of the greatest challenges to human and animal health. In 2021, Ireland’s second National Action Plan on AMR (iNAP2) strengthened Ireland’s commitment to tackling the challenge of AMR using the ‘One Health’ approach. The role of the environment in the persistence and transmission of AMR is the least studied element of the One Health paradigm. This was further highlighted by the analysis commissioned by the EPA in preparation for iNAP2. The findings of the AREST project add significantly to our understanding of this environmental dimension of AMR by (1) providing evidence of the extent of contamination of the Irish environment with antimicrobial-resistant organisms and antimicrobial resistance genes of clinical concern, (2) generating national-level data on the key sources, hotspots and drivers of AMR in the environment from the human health and agriculture sectors, and (3) providing key data and recommendations.

Research 447

Research 447: Macroalgal Blooms in Transitional and Coastal Waters; Management – Pressures,Policy and Solutions (MACRO-MAN)

Authors: Ricardo Bermejo, Nessa Golden, Sara Haro, Sita Karki, Michéal MacMonagail,Sara García-Poza, Teresa Navarrete-Fernández, Benedikt Brunner, Kay Knöller,Mark Healy, Owen Fenton, Per-Erik Mellander and Liam Morrison., January 2024

Year: 2024

Eutrophication of waters and consequent algal blooms place significant pressure on marine ecosystems. Reducing the nutrient load of these waters is essential for ecosystem restoration. The MACRO-MAN project developed innovative methods to assess the environmental quality of Irish estuaries, and to identify drivers of and management strategies for macroalgal blooms. The potential risks associated with macroalgal blooms were considered in a global change context (e.g., climate change, emerging contaminants, biological invasions) in order to investigate the impact on ecosystem functioning and services provided by Irish estuaries. Using Earth Observation technologies, the project mapped the spatial and temporal distribution of brown, green and red macroalgal blooms in Irish estuaries, including the reconstruction of the invasion of a red Asian seaweed (Gracilaria vermiculophylla) in the Clonakilty estuary.

Research 446

Research 446: CROSSDRO: Cross-sectoral Drought Impacts in Complex European Basins

Authors: Conor Murphy and Sam Grainger, January 2024

Year: 2024

Droughts are pervasive and hazardous events that impact multiple domains, including agriculture, water resource management, ecological management, infrastructure, waterway navigation and forestry. A drought in Ireland in 2018, had severe socio-economic and environmental impacts across sectors: agriculture suffered from reduced grass growth, fodder shortages and decreased crop yields, peatlands faced increased wildfire risk and ecological degradation and water management was challenging amid supply issues. In addition, canals, waterways, and rivers experienced weed growth, navigation problems, fishing restrictions and reduced fish health and forestry saw increased tree deaths, especially in peatland plantations. The CROSSDRO project collated a network of river flow gauges across Europe, covering the period 1962–2017, for the analysis of hydrological drought.

Research 444

Research 444: Taxonomy and Phylogeography of the Irish Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus)

Authors: Noé Barthelemy, Rosaleen Hynes, George Hutchinson and Paulo A. Prodöhl, December 2023

Year: 2023

Salmonid Arctic char is a freshwater fish species vulnerable to low oxygen levels, rising temperatures associated with global warming, threats from invasive species, and water abstraction activities. There is an urgent need for effective conservation and management of Irish Arctic char, as it is recognised as “vulnerable” in the Irish Red Data Book. The study examined the role of scientific communication in influencing policymakers' decisions on conservation of this species.

Updated Research 443

Research 443: Remote Sensing of Irish Surface Waters

Authors: Conor Delaney, Valerie McCarthy, Kevin French, Sita Karki, Vicky Veerkamp, Moataz Ahmed Abdel Ghaffar, Jenny Hanafin, Alastair McKinstry, Eleanor Jennings and Aaron Golden, November 2023

Year: 2023

Lakes, estuaries, and coastal waters are crucial for human well-being. Lakes are critical sources of drinking water, and support irrigation, fisheries, and aquaculture activities. These waters are also important for recreation and tourism and support high levels of biodiversity. The number and diversity of water bodies in Ireland makes regular in situ monitoring an acute challenge for regulatory authorities. Ireland has legally binding legislative obligations under the WFD. This project determined if the use of freely available Earth observation data from both the Copernicus and Landsat Earth observation programmes could offer a cost-effective and evidence-based means of remotely monitoring such water bodies in Ireland.

Research 442

Research 442: Impact of Nitrogen Dioxide on Health with Particular Emphasis on Vulnerable Groups

Authors: Aonghus Ó Domhnaill, Margaret O’Mahony, Brian Broderick, Martina Hennessy, Aoife Donnelly, Owen Naughton, Eimir Hurley, Philip Carthy, Anne Nolan, Frank Moriarty and Seán Lyons, November 2023

Year: 2023

Exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is associated with adverse effects on hospital admissions for various diagnoses; respiratory illnesses such as asthma, cancer, adverse birth outcomes, as well as mortality. The main source of NO2 in Ireland is road transport, particularly diesel engines. Other sources include off-road machinery, industrial and construction activities, and electricity and heat production. This research project analysed associations between the model estimations of NO2 and the health data of 8000 adults aged over 50 years. Using the HSE-PRCR prescribing database, the project found a positive association between respiratory item prescription rates and PM2.5 levels, while the results for NO2 were inconclusive. The project also developed an enhanced Wind Sector Land Use Regression (WS-LUR) model that estimates ambient NO2 concentrations at any location in Ireland with particular emphasis on vehicle fleet changes and traffic flow impacts on NO2.

Research 441

Research 441: Irish Natural Capital Accounting for Sustainable Environments (INCASE)

Authors: Jane C. Stout, Catherine A. Farrell, Mary Kelly-Quinn, Lisa Coleman,Stephen Kinsella, Cathal O’Donoghue, Daniel Norton, Carl Obst, Mark Eigenraam,Fiona Smith, Iseult Sheehy and Sarah Zimmermann., November 2023

Year: 2023

Nature continues to be degraded globally. Despite our societies and economies depending on it, we often ignore or undervalue this degradation. To bring nature into everyday decision-making, the natural capital approach deliberately uses the language of business and economics. In this context, nature can be thought of as an array of stocks of natural assets, incorporating biodiversity, air, water and geology. The condition of these stocks influences the flow of goods and services, and the benefits that our societies and economies derive from these assets. This EPA Research Report provides insights into the development of natural capital accounts at the catchment scale in Ireland. It aims to provide a comprehensive view of the stocks of natural capital assets and the flows of services, along with guidance on how to scale-up the process to national level.

Research Report Cover 440

Research 440: Advances in Sustainable Nutrient Recovery for the Management of Nitrogen-rich Residue Streams (REFERT)

Authors: Bart Bonsall, Donncha Haverty, Corine Nzeteu, Pádraic Ó hUiginn and Vincent O’Flaherty, November 2023

Year: 2023

Across the EU, anthropogenic sources of nitrogen (N) threaten water and air quality. Agriculture is also a significant source of N and GHG emissions linked to climate change. N for crops is sourced from mineral fertilisers, livestock manures and anaerobic digestion digestates. Landfill leachates also generate N and GHG emissions. The EPA funded this research to identify cost-effective methods to mitigate the release of N and GHGs from ammoniacal streams.

Research report 439 cover image

Research 439: Research on the Environment, Health, Consumer Behaviour and the Economy: ESRI Research Programme on Environmental Socio-economics 2020–2022

Authors: Ylva Andersson, Peter Barlow, Philip Carthy, Kelly de Bruin, Míde Griffin, Seán Lyons, Pete Lunn, Bertrand Maître, Likun Mao, Maria Martinez Cillero, David Meier, Gretta Mohan, Kieran Mohr, Anne Nolan, Brian O’Connell, Vincent O’Sullivan, Aidan Sloyan, Shane Timmons, Miguel Tovar Reaños, Brendan Walsh and Aykut Mert Yakut, October 2023

Year: 2023

The main objective of this EPA-ESRI collaboration is to produce policy-relevant applied research at the interface between the environment, economy, and society. This report provides a summary of 12 studies, produced by the ESRI, that use a range of data and methodological approaches to provide insights into the environmental challenges facing Irish society. The studies include analyses of the impact on healthcare systems from the smoky coal ban, living in areas of higher PM2.5 levels, e-coli exceedances in drinking water and water related diseases in the summer months. It also examines the potential for a “green VAT”, the levels of emissions embedded in imports and the best ways to present information to people to enable action.

Research Report cover image

Research 438: The Use of Earth Observation and Machine Learning for Industrial and Waste Crime Identification and Prevention

Authors: Zane Ferch, Steve Coughlan, Charlotte O’Kelly and Sinead McGlynn, October 2023

Year: 2023

This research provides enforcement authorities with viable options to use cost effective technological tools to quickly detect and react to industrial and waste crime.

Research Report 437

Research 437: PHENOGRASS – The Phenology of Perennial Ryegrass and its Potential Contribution to Grassland Carbon Sequestration

Authors: Jonathan Yearsley, Rainer Melzer and Carl Frisk, September 2023

Year: 2023

Agricultural grasslands are a crucial part of Ireland’s agroeconomy. Within these grasslands, perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is the dominant species and underpins much of their performance, of which the timing of growth (i.e., the phenology of grasslands) is an important aspect. A late start or an early end to the growing season requires grazing livestock to be housed for longer, which in turn requires farmers to have additional reserves of forage. Reserves depend on the length of the grass growing season. Seasons with exceptionally late starts and those with poor forage harvests have been major contributory factors to past fodder crises, with broad consequences for the economy, animal welfare and human well-being.

Report Cover image 436

Research 436: Assessing Potential for North Atlantic Integrated Atmospheric Research

Liz Coleman and Frank McGovern, August 2023

Year: 2023

The impact of human activity since the Industrial Revolution has altered the environment, pushing its stability to critical limits, with real implications for societal, economic and environmental systems. The planetary boundaries framework has provided a powerful tool for communicating the individual and collective threats arising from unsustainable post-industrial development, yet actions and responses take place at regional, national and local levels.

Report Cover 435

Research 435: Industrial Water 4.0 – A Framework for Catchment-based Digitally Integrated Industrial Water Stewardship

Authors: Colm Gaskin, Ken Stockil, Thomas Track, William Horan, Andres Lucht and Paul Conheady, July 2023

Year: 2023

Industrial activity is intrinsically linked to the accessibility and availability of water. The increasing global demand for industrial water poses a significant risk management challenge for organisations aiming to decouple the growth of production capacity from unsustainable consumption. This report presents a framework for industrial water users to adopt Industrial Water 4.0.