Lough Tay


Detecting Change and Assessing the Effectiveness of Measures to Protect and Restore High Status Objective River Waterbodies

Inland Fisheries Ireland is working with a research team in University College Dublin to develop a multidisciplinary monitoring programme to detect change in high status objective river waterbodies and to assess the effectiveness of measures to protect and restore them. This project is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency Research Programme 2021–2030. Inland Fisheries Ireland is managing the project.

Monitoring the health of high-status rivers

  • Clean, healthy waters are essential for both our wellbeing and the natural environment.
  • One of the most notable trends observed in Ireland has been the decline of the most pristine (High Status = Q5) river waterbodies since the late 1980s.
  • These high-status waters are important because they:
    • act as reservoirs for aquatic biodiversity including fish;
    • are a source of biota for recolonisation of river reaches recovering from pollution;
    • support some of the most sensitive aquatic species.
  • Their protection and restoration is one of the key environmental objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Why is a bespoke monitoring programme needed

Routine monitoring is carried out annually to assess the status of Irish rivers. But due to the decline in high status waterbodies, research is now needed to design and implement a bespoke monitoring programme that can detect change in these waterbodies, evaluate their status, determine environmental stressors that are preventing high status from being achieved and assess the effectiveness of measures to protect and maintain the status of these waterbodies.

Avonmore River, Wicklow

What elements will be included in the monitoring programme

  • All relevant biological (e.g., fish, macroinvertebrates, aquatic plants), physico-chemical (e.g., phosphate and nitrate) and hydromorphological elements, as well as other factors, are being considered.
  • Monitoring will represent the different types and magnitude of pressures on water quality in each catchment.
  • Monitoring will be initiated in five demonstration catchments and one control catchment (see Waters of Life Project below).

State of the art scientific approaches to catchment monitoring

The project will build on current state-of-the-art scientific approaches to catchment monitoring and will be achieved through the integration of extant data on catchment and stream condition, a desk-based initial assessment, field sampling methods to assess the status of selected biological and supporting elements and high frequency monitoring using novel instream sensors. We will develop a customised monitoring programme for each demonstration catchment that will provide a suite of KPIs to evaluate the effectiveness of measures introduced.

Avonmore River, Wicklow

Guiding future national monitoring programmes

Outputs from the project will inform a wider rollout of a national monitoring programme for high status objective waterbodies.

Waters of Life Project

The RESTORE project team will be working closely with the Waters of Life Project team (https://www.watersoflife.ie/) to develop the monitoring programme in six catchments. The Waters of Life project is an EU LIFE Integrated project aiming to help reverse and halt the loss of pristine river waterbodies. The project’s objective is to support the implementation of measures to protect and enhance high status objective river waterbodies by validating their effectiveness in study six demonstration catchments.

EPA RESTORE project partners