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Research 456

Research 456: Roadway Run-off and Nutrient-loss Reduction

Authors: Owen Fenton, Karen Daly, John Murnane and Patrick Tuohy, May 2024

Year: 2024

The Nitrates Directive aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing nutrients from agricultural sources, including livestock manures and other fertilisers, from polluting ground and surface waters, and by promoting good farming practices. Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme states “There shall be no direct runoff of soiled water from farm roadways to waters”. Despite existing regulation, there has been minimal research in Ireland pertaining to the source, content, pathway, mobilisation and impact of roadway runoff. The Roadrunner project reviewed mitigation measures to treat roadway runoff, developed an on-farm visual tool to find and document connectivity between roadway runoff and waters, and provided the evidence base to define roadway runoff as a unique sub-component of the nutrient transfer continuum.

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 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.

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Research 433: Sense and Purify (SPy): Detect, Destroy and Remove Water Contaminants

Authors: Robert J. Forster, June 2023

Year: 2023

Many wastewater streams, such as those from the pharmaceutical and food industries or from municipal wastewater, for example, contain pollutants. The SPy project developed the eco-innovative ‘Sense and Purify’ (SPy) technology, which has significant advantages over traditional treatment processes, including low operations costs, significantly lower energy consumption, higher conversion efficiency, better effluent water quality and lower waste production.

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Research 428: Percolation Testing of Soils for On-site Wastewater Treatment

Authors: Joanne Mac Mahon, Jan Knappe and Laurence Gill, January 2023

Year: 2023

Estimation of soil permeability is a critical aspect of on-site wastewater treatment system design. The findings of this research identify a need to revise the currently available options in the Irish Code of Practice for estimating soil permeability for on-site wastewater system design. In this research, a correlation was developed between field saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kfs) and percolation time (T-values) across a full range of Irish soil texture data.

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Research 424: ESDecide: From Ecosystem Services Framework to Application for Integrated Freshwater Resources Management

Authors: Mary Kelly-Quinn, Michael Bruen, Craig Bullock, Mike Christie, Christian K. Feld, Jasper Kenter, Marcin Penk and Jeremy Piggott, September 2022

Year: 2022

The ESDecide project set out to build on the outputs of the previous EPA-funded ESManage project by developing the tools and guidance needed to advance the incorporation of ecosystem services and the concept of “nature’s contribution to people” (NCP) into decision-making for the protection and management of freshwater resources and other related policy goals. The project developed the interactive decision support tool ProgRES, which helps river resource managers estimate the probability of changes in biological responses and the associated ecosystem services/NCP changes in environmental conditions.

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Research 421: Assessment of the Extent and Impact of Barriers on Freshwater Hydromorphology and Connectivity in Ireland (Reconnect)

Authors: Mary Kelly-Quinn, Michael Bruen, Jonathan N. Turner, John O’Sullivan, Jens Carlsson, Craig Bullock, Siobhan Atkinson and Colm M. Casserly, September 2022

Year: 2022

The Reconnect project advanced knowledge on the impact of low-head barriers on connectivity in Irish rivers in terms of sediment dynamics and ecology (fish, macroinvertebrates and macrophytes) through studies undertaken from 2016 to 2020 in four core study areas on the Duag, Dalligan and Burren rivers and Browns Beck Brook and at 35 other locations across 12 river/stream systems. The project also developed a methodology for prioritising barriers for modification or removal to improve hydromorphology and connectivity.

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Research 413: The Diversity and Resilience of Kelp Ecosystems in Ireland

Authors: Kathryn Schoenrock, Stacy Krueger-Hadfield, Kenan Chan, Rory O’Callaghan, Tony O’Callaghan, Aaron Golden and Anne Marie Power, July 2022

Year: 2022

In Ireland, Kelp forests can be found along rocky shorelines and dominates rocky substrata along the Irish coastline (approximately 3010 km out of the 7524 km of national shoreline). The report makes recommendations concerning monitoring and preserving kelp ecosystems nationwide. A range of resilience metrics was assessed for subtidal kelp forests in Ireland to better understand how to monitor, manage and simply understand these systems and their potential responses to climate shifts in nearshore ecosystems.

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Research 406: Sharing Lessons Learned from Water Governance

Authors: Joanna O’Riordan, Richard Boyle, John O’Neill, Fergal O’Leary and Laura Shannon, March 2022

Year: 2022

Clean, healthy water is essential for our economy, our aquatic wildlife and our health and wellbeing. However, as noted in the draft third-cycle River Basin Management Plan (Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, 2021), there are mounting environmental pressures on Ireland’s waters with the situation described as ‘’urgent’’. The objective of this research was to review changes in structures and processes made under the second-cycle River Basin Management Plan, 2018–2021, to inform thinking regarding the third-cycle River Basin Management Plan, 2022–2027.

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Research 403: EcoMetrics – Environmental Supporting Conditions for Groundwater-dependent Terrestrial Ecosystems

Authors: Laurence Gill, Saheba Bhatnagar, Ella Bijkerk, Shane Regan, Celia Somlai, Owen Naughton, Bidisha Ghosh, Stephen Waldren, Catherine Coxon and Paul Johnston, February 2022

Year: 2022

Wetlands provide important regulating ecosystem services, such as water purification, carbon capture and storage, and flood protection. They also provide rich habitats for biodiversity, including many protected species. This research project evaluated and developed methods for the assessment and definition of appropriate ecohydrological metrics to help policymakers conserve and/or restore wetlands, particularly with respect to meeting the objectives of the Water Framework Directive and Habitats Directive as applied to GWDTEs in Ireland.

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Research 396: Catchment Models and Management Tools for Diffuse Contaminants (Sediment, Phosphorus and Pesticides): DiffuseTools Project

Authors: Ian Thomas, Michael Bruen, Eva Mockler, Christopher Werner, Per-Erik Mellander, Sim Reaney, Anna Rymszewicz, Gavan McGrath, Edith Eder, Andrew Wade, Adrian Collins and Berit Arheimer, November 2021

Year: 2021

Eutrophication, often driven by phosphorus, is the most significant issue for inland surface waters in Ireland. Half of Irish river water bodies still require improvements to bring them to good status, as required by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) (2000/60/EC). This research contributes to Ireland’s response to the third River Basin Management Plan of the WFD and to the development and implementation of more sustainable and cost-effective agricultural policies.

Research 389

Research 389: Evaluating the Multiple Values of Nature – ESDecide: from an Ecosystem Services Framework to Application for Integrated Freshwater Resources Management

Authors: Mike Christie, Jasper Kenter, Craig Bullock, Michael Bruen, Marcin Penk, Christian Feld and Mary Kelly-Quinn, August 2021

Year: 2021

The Water Framework Directive requires the EPA to monitor the quality of water in Ireland’s rivers and lakes. This research reviewed the multiple values and benefits of nature, often termed ‘ecosystem services’ or’ nature’s contributions to people (NCPs)’. It provides insights into the multiple ways people value rivers and associated ecosystem services/ NCPs. The research also developed a decision support tool to assess the impacts on ecosystem services/NCPs of alternative river catchment measures.

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Research 380: Innovative Water Monitoring

Authors: Kevin Fitzgibbon, William Whelan-Curtin, Chinna Devarapu, Patricia Loren, Colin O’Sullivan and Ian Aherne, June 2021

Year: 2021

The Innovative Water Monitoring project aimed to create an additional innovative sensing system for real-time detection of water quality parameters, to support the existing water quality monitoring policies, programmes and requirements under the Water Framework Directive, the Bathing Water Quality legislation, etc. It has demonstrated the ability to detect two such parameters, nitrates and Escherichia coli (E. coli), using the system.

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Research 378: Towards the Quantification of Blanket Bog Ecosystem Services to Water

Authors: Raymond Flynn, Francis Mackin and Florence Renou-Wilson, June 2021

Year: 2021

Blanket bogs are common in many areas of Ireland, contributing to our most iconic landscapes. However, although they cover approximately 13% of the country, natural processes sustaining blanket bogs remain poorly understood. This research aimed to better understand blanket bog hydrology through a 3-year programme in which researchers monitored the flow and water quality in streams draining Irish blanket bogs that are relatively intact.

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Research 376: From Source to Sink: Responses of a Coastal Catchment to Large-scale Changes (Golden Strand Catchment, Achill Island, County Mayo)

Authors: Eugene Farrell, Mary Bourke, Tiernan Henry, Gesche Kindermann, Kevin Lynch, Terry Morley, Barry O’Dwyer, John O’Sullivan and Jonathan Turner, June 2021

Year: 2021

This research is a series of field experiments that measured patterns in the sediment and water pathways in the Golden Strand catchment, Achill Island, County Mayo. The results show that climate changes (storminess, temperature, precipitation) impacts are site specific and require long-term, multi-disciplinary field monitoring programmes (geomorphology; ecology; hydrology) to capture local specificity and environmental variability.

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Research 373: Using an Experimental Governance Lens to Examine Governance of the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018–2021

Authors: Richard Boyle, Joanna O’Riordan, Fergal O’Leary and Laura Shannon, May 2021

Year: 2021

This report examines lessons learned from the water governance arrangements put in place for the River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) 2018–2021 for Ireland through the lens of experimental governance. The study finds that the three-tier governance structure is appropriate and should be continued. However, there is still room for improvement in the area of adapting and improving the operation of the existing arrangements.

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Research 372: Using the OECD Water Governance Indicator Framework to Review the Implementation of the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018–2021

Authors: Joanna O’Riordan, Richard Boyle, Fergal O’Leary and Laura Shannon, May 2021

Year: 2021

This report assesses water governance in Ireland using the Water Governance Indicator Framework, a tool developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2018 to assist countries in assessing their progress towards the European Union’s Water Framework Directive.