A recent ecological survey of the Ward River, as part of the Fingal Biodiversity Action Plan, has found evidence of otter, kingfisher, and dipper.
Sadly, the survey failed to find evidence of salmon along the river from Knocksedan Bridge to Balheary, despite it appearing in previous surveys.
A senior ecologist from Rivus Ecological Engineers, who conducted the survey, gave a presentation on their findings to the Area Committee of Fingal County Council this week.
The survey identified a number of problems in the ecology of the river which is limiting the growth of certain species along the important wildlife corridor.
The fish surveys uncovered clear issues with the movement of fish upstream. They recorded strong numbers of eel in the lower reaches of the river but only one recording above the first weir. They also recorded trout, minnows, stone loach, three-spined stickleback, perch and flounder across seven sites.
The abundance of species lower in the river shows that species are finding it difficult to migrate past the weirs. Their electro fish surveys found the Arches at Ushers lake to be a complete block for many species.
The bird and mammal surveys were quite successful with otter couches (where they rest during the day) and otter holts (underground resting places) identified along the river. Both dipper and kingfishers were observed during the survey, as well as nesting sites.
The ecologists found that areas in the park where there was not a sufficient buffer zone to the river bank far less biodiversity was identified. In the park human disturbance is having an impact.
The ecologist explained that in addition to human disturbance the use of rock armour on river banks was having a negative effect. Also street run-off into the river was a problem.
They made the following recommendations:
- Preserve/conserve the unmodified habitats around Ushers Lake
- Improve the water quality in the river through the use of attenuation ponds.
- Establish a vegitation buffer zone right along the river.
- Improve fish passage at the Arches, the two weirs, and the structures at Bridge St.
- Remove the rock armour where possible.
- Create wetlands to improve the floodplain connectivity.
Cllr Ian Carey said:
“Knowing what species are present and how to improve their habitat is key to developing and protecting the flourishing natural environment we want to see in the Ward River Valley.
“It was reassuring to find that otters are still present in the river. They are obviously excellent at keeping a low profile but it speaks to the condition of the river overall that they can be supported there.
“The recommendations are now going to be central to the park development project. It’s interesting to know we can still do so much to restore biodiversity even in the centre of the park.”