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Freshwater Biological Diversity in Ireland. Dr Jim Bowman Programme Manager. Outline of presentation. 1 Overview of freshwater biological diversity 2 Protecting Legislation 3 Water Framework Directive 4 The Future. Part 1. 1 Overview of freshwater biological diversity

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freshwater biological diversity in ireland

Freshwater Biological Diversity in Ireland

Dr Jim Bowman

Programme Manager

outline of presentation
Outline of presentation

1 Overview of freshwater biological diversity

2 Protecting Legislation

3 Water Framework Directive

4 The Future

part 1
Part 1

1 Overview of freshwater biological diversity

2 Protecting Legislation

3 Water Framework Directive

4 The Future

recording biological diversity in ireland
Recording biological diversity in Ireland
  • Recording information on the overall biological diversity in Ireland has not been done systematically in the past. Diversity maps frequently reflect the distribution of collectors rather than the true distribution of the species being described.
  • Also such endeavours can reflect the area of expertise of the collector.
  • The National Biodiversity Data Centre has now commenced this task and has an important Role to play in improving the situation.
impovrished flora and fauna
Impovrished Flora and Fauna
  • As a result of Ireland being covered by ice during the period 100000 to 13000 years ago our floral and faunal communities were nearly, if not, completely eliminated.
  • We are still in a re-colonisation phase and the Flora & Fauna of the country are diminished in comparison with our neighbours. Being an island does not help.
glaciation 100 000 to 10 000 years ago
Glaciation – 100,000 to 10,000 years ago

During the last ice age the entire country was covered by ice except for possibly a small area in west Limerick and north Kerry. The ice was up to 1,000m thick in places.

Warren and Ashley, 1994

the principal groups of aquatic organisms
The Principal Groups of Aquatic Organisms
  • Planktonic algae and bacteria
  • Macrophytes and macro-algae
  • Zooplankton and invertebrates
  • Fish
  • Amphibians
  • Birds
  • Mammals

All combine to form the Irish aquatic community

how a freshwater community interlinks or a general aquatic energy flow diagram
How a Freshwater Community Interlinksor A General Aquatic Energy Flow Diagram


Terrestrial & Aquatic



Big Fish


Little fish

Little fish

Zooplankton spp. & Invertebrates spp.

Algae ssp. Bacteria ssp. Macrophytes ssp.

Water (H2O) + Calcium + Carbon + Nutrients (N & P) + trace elements

role of the species
Role of the species

Each species has a specific and critical role to play in the correct functioning of the aquatic community.

If even one species is missing the system is not operating effectively.

Thus, in order for the aquatic community to function effectively it is necessary to have the full diversity of organisms present.

freshwater phytoplankton and bacteria
Freshwater Phytoplankton and Bacteria

Occur mostly in lakes.

Planktonic forms: 1000+ ???

True plankton: <500

Maumwee: 250 species ~ 40 per sampling occasion

Ramor: 51 species ~ 15-20 per sampling occasion


Uncertainty with Taxonomy

Too few taxonomists

freshwater macrophytes
Freshwater macrophytes
  • Charaphytes: 26 species
  • Pteridophytes: 5 species
  • Mosses and Liverworts: 24 species
  • Angiosperms: 123 species:-
    • 11 Floating-leaved forms,
    • 8 Free Floating forms,
    • 8 Isoetid forms,
    • 45 Elodeid forms,
    • 51 Emergent forms
freshwater zooplankton
Freshwater Zooplankton

Rotifera: 45 species

Cladocera: 52 species

Copepoda: 30 species

Chydorids: 41 species

Ostracods: 59 species

freshwater invertebrates
Freshwater Invertebrates

~1900 aquatic invertebrates species in Ireland

  • Ephemeroptera: 33 (48)
  • Plecoptera: 20 (34)
  • Trichoptera: 147 (195)
  • Diptera 929: (1525)
  • Mollusca 53: (65)
freshwater fish
Freshwater Fish

Europe: 215 species

Britain: 55 Species

Ireland: 29 Species

Eleven “native” species

our eleven native species
Our Eleven “Native” Species

*Allis&Twaite shad: local

Lamprey: local

Salmonids: widespread

Arctic Char: local

Pollan: local

*Smelt: local

3 & 10 spined stickleback

*Eel: widespread

* More tidal than fresh

irish amphibians
Irish Amphibians

Three species of amphibian occur in Ireland

Rana temporaria Common Frog Very common

Bufo calamita Natterjack toad Limited distribution

Triturus vulgaris Smooth newt Widespread




introduced new species and invasive alien species
Introduced new species and invasive alien species

Introduced new species

  • Birds: White-tailed Sea and Golden eagle

Invasive alien species

  • Fish: 18 species –Pike, Roach, Rudd, Dace and so on
  • Macrophytes: Lagarosiphon major+++
  • Invertebrates: Zebra mussel+++
  • Mammals: Mink

Climate change?

    • Little egret +++

Most likely a natural extension of their distribution

aquatic communities
Aquatic Communities

These organisms combine to form communities in our various water categories.

These communities are not casual collections of organisms.

The community composition will depend on:

  • The waterbody category –river, lake & estuary
  • The depth, size and altitude of waterbody
  • The waterbody hardness
  • The waterbody background nutrient status

Waterbody types

general observation on freshwater diversity
General Observation on freshwater diversity

Good Quality Water Degraded Water

Good diversity of taxa Reduced diversity

Low density of organism within taxa High density of organism

(Low number of organisms (High number of organisms

per taxa) per taxa). In extreme cases you can have a monoculture (e.g. Proules R.)

outline of presentation1
Outline of presentation

1 Overview of freshwater biological diversity

2 Protecting Legislation

3 Water Framework Directive

4 The Future

protecting freshwater diversity legislation
Protecting Freshwater Diversity - Legislation

Some limited improvement in water quality and species protection was achieved during the 1970’s by the setting of quality objectives through:

  • Dangerous Substances Directive(76/464/EEC),
  • Fresh Water Fish Directive(78/659/EEC)
  • Quality of Shellfish Waters Directive(79/923/EEC)

And later

  • Groundwater Directive (80/68/EC),
  • IPPC Directive (91/61/EC),
  • Urban Waste-water Treatment Directive(91/271/EEC )
  • Nitrates Directive(91/676/EEC);
  • Habitats Directive(92/43/EEC) ;
  • Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Directive(96/61/EC).

However, conspicuous gaps still remained in the legislation enacted to protect Europe’s water and the quality standard approach proved to be inadequate in protecting Community waters.

a new approach
A New Approach

The European Commission encouraged by the European Parliament and Council of Environment Ministers and acknowledging the increasing concerns of its citizens about water quality, commenced a process of widespread consultation on water matters.

This process culminated with the proposal for a Water Framework Directive (WFD), which was adopted in 2000, to establish a legal framework to protect and restore water quality.

outline of presentation2
Outline of presentation

1 Overview of freshwater biological diversity

2 Protecting Legislation

3 Water Framework Directive

4 The Future

what is different about the water framework directive
What is different about the Water Framework Directive?
  • EU Directives in the past have required the achievement of chemical standards in surface waters that were calculated to ensure that a healthy fauna and flora was sustained in our surface waters.
  • The Water Framework Directive has now put the emphasis on clearly demonstrating the presence of a healthy fauna and flora in these waters.
is it important
Is it important?

The most significant piece of legislation to date

or that we are likely to see in our lifetime dealing with water quality and quantity.

what is the water framwork directive

Surface freshwaters

Estuaries & Coastal waters


What is the Water Framwork Directive

It is a Framework for the protection of the chemistry, biology and natural form of: all surface and groundwaters and dependent waterbodies.

objective of the directive
Objective of the Directive
  • Prevent deterioration of and to protect “high status” where it exists.
  • Restore the status of bodies of water with the aim of achieving good surface water status and good groundwater status by 2015*.
  • No deterioration in existing biological/ecological, physico-chemical and hydromorphological status.

*There are provisions for derrogations and deferred objectives

the strategic process
The Strategic Process

Mapping of River Basin Districts in GIS Format

Characterisation of water bodies

Mapping of water bodies

Listing of pressures

Detailed risks that may cause failure to meet objectives by 2015

Economic analysis of water use Data Gathering

Monitoring programme

Implement monitoring programme

Establish chemical standards and Biological

classification systems

Determine Water Body Status Linking

Set Objectives & Measures for Water bodies

Management Plans Actions & Planning

Implementing Plans


status assessment surface waters
Status Assessment Surface Waters

Large amounts of Chemical and Biological data gathered.

Ecological StatusChemical Status

Biology Phytoplankton List of 41 Chemicals




Physico-Chemistry Nutrients

Oxygen & Temp


Relevant Pollutants

Other pollutants

Hydromorphology Continuity



biological element descriptor parameter
BIOLOGICAL Element Descriptor (parameter)

Biological ElementElement Descriptors

Phytoplankton: Composition + Abundance + Biomass (3)


Phytobenthos: Composition + Abundance (2)

Invertebrates: Composition + Abundance (2)

Fish: Composition + Abundance +Age structure (3)

reference conditions
Reference Conditions

The highest quality unimpacted sites for each waterbody type in each water category, where there are no pressure influences, have been chosen and their biology examined.

These sites are referred to as being in Reference condition.

The status of waterbodies in the monitoring programme will be determined by expressing deviation from the particular Reference condition for that waterbody

biological classification
Biological Classification

EQR close to 1

No or very minor deviation from undisturbed conditions

High status or reference conditions (RC)

Slight deviation from RC

Good status

Moderate status

Moderate deviation from RC

Poor status

Bad status

EQR close to 0


The objective of the WFD is to achieve good or high status biological communities.

Means achieving a high level of biological diversity

Preservation of the aquatic community is the preservation of its biological diversity

outline of presentation3
Outline of presentation

1 Overview of freshwater biological diversity

2 Protecting Legislation

3 Water Framework Directive

4 The Future

future actions
Future Actions

Making the FirstRiver Basin Management Plans

Purpose: to meet objectives of WFD

Who is doing it: Local Authorities and Public Authorities

Draft plans completed 2008

Final plan to be ready Autumn 2009

Implement in period 2009 - 2015

climate change
Climate Change

Prediction: increased temperature, wetter winters, drier summers and more extreme weather events.

  • Response is species dependent and complex
  • Opportunities for invasive species may increase.
  • Many ecological systems may suffer increased stresses in heat waves.
  • Vulnerability of native species, e.g. Arctic char, smelt and salmon, and Atlantic salmon.
  • There is evidence of mismatches or asynchrony between plants, birds and insects.
strictly enforced
Strictly Enforced
  • The strategy that will implement the Directive has milestones and dates for achieving them.
  • If we fail the EU Commission will imediately initiate legal action against the Member State. Actions have already commenced against some states.

But most importantly

  • If we fail it will be a great opportunity lost to protect our aquatic biology in a meaningful way.
the end
The end


incorporates existing legislation
Incorporates existing legislation
  • The Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC);
  • The Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) ;
  • The Drinking Water Directive (80/778/EEC) as amended by Directive (98/83/EC);
  • The Major Accidents (Seveso) Directive (96/82/EC);
  • The Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (85/337/EEC);
  • The Sewage Sludge Directive (86/278/EEC);
  • The Urban Waste-water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC);
  • The Plant Protection Products Directive (91/414/EEC);
  • The Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC);
  • The Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) ;
  • The Integrated Pollution Prevention Control Directive (96/61/EC).
river basin districts rbd
River Basin Districts (RBD)
  • RBD comprises of the river catchments lying within specified Hydrometric Areas and lakes, estuaries & coastal waters and groundwaters associated with all these areas.
  • An International River Basin District (IRBD) is the combined RBD areas in the State & in Northern Ireland.
  • The island of Ireland has been divided into 8 RBDs
    • 4 entirely in the Republic,
    • 3 IRBDs, and
    • 1 entirely in Northern Ireland.
  • e.g. The SERBD comprises HAs 11-17
    • Slaney, Barrow, Nore and Suir.
    • It involves 13 relevant LAs.
involving the public
Involving the Public

EU Commission putting great emphasis on:

  • Public participation
  • Public consultation
  • Transparency