The Dublin Bay Biosphere

The challenges it faces and the people meeting its challenges.

Did you know that Dublin Bay has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO? In fact, Dublin Bay first achieved this status in 1981 and is currently one of only two Biospheres in Ireland, the other being Killarney National Park in County Kerry. As part of National Biodiversity Week, the Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership organised a trip on-board the St. Bridget, of Dublin Bay Cruises, on Friday 26th May. Fingal County Council is one of the Biosphere partners, as are the other Dublin Local Authorities. This event was sponsored by CARO, the Climate Action Regional Offices. The ship left Dún Laogaire, traveled around Howth Head and stopped behind Ireland’s Eye before heading back again. We were lucky, as the weather was exceptionally fair. En route, there were talks from a number of experts working in various ways to manage and research the Biosphere area.


A common theme throughout the talks was the power of extreme weather events to cause rapid changes to the bay, most notably, Storm Emma in 2018. Abbie Nugent of the Trinity Coastal Research Group is studying the geomorphology of North Bull Island. Her research has highlighted a marked loss of structure at the north tip of the island since 2013 and one of her hypotheses for the cause is Storm Emma and other recent storms.

We learned from Fingal County Council Senior Engineer Colin Gallagher of the coastal erosion at Portrane caused by Storm Emma. Erosion is currently a cause of concern in

Portrane, with Seabees and Groynes being discussed as potential mitigation measures. Sand dune structures are a delicate balance of erosion and accretion and if an erosion phase isn’t followed by an accretion phase, the consequences can be dire in terms of loss of land. One concern arising from Climate Change is that there will be an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events like Storm Emma which will negatively affect this balance.

The other common theme that emerged from the talks is the growing importance of nature-based solutions to the problems we face in Dublin Bay, such as flooding and land erosion. We learned from Sean Meehan of the National Parks and Wildlife Parks and Wildlife Service about a 2000 hectare biodiversity restoration project for native woodland and bogland in Glenasmole Valley in the Dublin Mountains. Although not directly within the Biosphere, the project will affect water runoff into the River Dodder, which flows into it. Sean also mentioned how the root structure of seagrass helps to bind the land in estuaries together, reducing erosion. He highlighted that we need more monitoring and research of seagrass meadows to learn how to take full advantage of this effect.

Colin Gallagher of Fingal County Council told us about the value of ponds, not only to slow down the rate of water runoff within a catchment, but also to act as natural water treatment structures and to increase biodiversity by providing new habitats for wildlife.

During our brief trip, we saw plenty of wildlife: a harbour seal, gannets and guillemots, even a porpoise.

The prevailing sentiment was that Dublin Bay is a very beautiful place, worthy of our admiration and certainly worthy of enlightened management.

Article and Images kindly supplied by Stephen O’Reilly of Fingal County Council.