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North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review Report 2014


Abstract and Figures

This report is a periodic review under Article 9 of the Seville Strategy (UNESCO, 1995) of the existing North Bull Island Biosphere reserve, a ‘first-generation’ biosphere designated in 1981 by UNESCO MAB. This is the first periodic review of this Biosphere reserve. It has been prepared following discussions over a two-year period between Euro-MAB and Dublin City Council, the managers of the Biosphere reserve, and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the MAB Focal Point in the Republic of Ireland. This report is mainly concerned with assessment of the existing Biosphere reserve. The process of preparing this periodic review has stimulated much discussion about the existing Biosphere and its strengths and limitations in contributing to the Worldwide Network of Biosphere Reserves. Arising from this, a new partnership has been forged which centers on Dublin Bay, where North Bull Island is situated, and protecting and managing its resources sustainably using a Biosphere approach. We have assessed the designated Biosphere and how it could go further to encompass the ecosystem of the Bay in a proposed Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve (DBBR).
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Tearmann Bithsféir
Oileán an Bhulla
North Bull Island
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Periodic Review
September 2014
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
A review of the past decade of activity and change within the North Bull Island Biosphere, Dublin, Ireland
in fulfilment of Article 4 of the UNESCO Seville Strategy (1995)
prepared by Dublin City Council
on behalf of the Irish Government and Irish MAB National Committee.
This review has been provided as follows:
1. The original hard copy, with the original signatures, letters of endorsement, zonation map and supporting
documents. This should be sent to the Secretariat through the Official UNESCO channels, i.e. via the National
Commission for UNESCO and/or the Permanent Delegation to UNESCO.
2. An electronic version (on diskette, CD, etc.) of the periodic review form and of maps (especially the zonation
map) to the MAB Secretariat:
Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences
1, rue Miollis
F-75732 Paris Cedex 15, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 68 40 67
Fax: +33 (0)1 45 68 58 04
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Appropriate Assessment
Biodiversity Action Plan
Business Improvement District
Biosphere Reserve
Common Implementation Strategy
Central Statistics Office
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Department of Arts Heritage & the Gaeltacht
Dublin Area Rapid Transport
Dublin City Council
Dublin City University
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Environmental Impact Assessment
Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Quality Standards
Eastern River Basin District
Fingal County Council
Foundation for Environmental Education
Global Action Plan Ireland
Greater Dublin Area
Greater Dublin Strategic Drainage Study
Green Infrastructure
Geographical Information Systems
Good Water Bodies
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Irish kite Surfing Association
Man and Biosphere
Memorandum of Understanding
National Biodiversity Data Centre
North Bull Island
National Development Plan
Non-Governmental Organisation
National Parks & Wildlife Service
National Spatial Strategy
National University of Ireland
Particulate Matter
Regional Planning Guidelines
Raidió Teilifís Éireann
Special Amenity Area Order
Special Area of Conservation
Small Area Population Statistics
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Strategic Environmental Assessment
Special Protection Area
Trinity College Dublin
University College Dublin
Water Framework Directive
Your Dublin Your Voice
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
1. Biosphere Reserve 36
2. Significant Changes in the Biosphere Reserve During the Past Ten Years 40
3. Ecosystem Services 102
4. The Conservation Function 111
5. The Development Function 123
6. The Logistic Function 143
7. Governance, Biosphere Reserve Management and Coordination 164
8. Criteria and Progress made 182
9. Supporting Documents 186
10. Addresses 190
Annex I: MABnet Directory of the Biosphere Reserves 244
Annex II: Promotion and Communication Materials 250
Annex III: Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves 255
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal / marine ecosystems, or a combination thereof, which are internationally
recognised within the framework of UNESCO’s Program on Man and the Biosphere (MAB). They are established to promote and
demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere. Biosphere reserves are designated by the International Co-
ordinating Council of the MAB Program at the request of the state concerned.
Individual Biosphere reserves remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the state where they are situated. Collectively, all
Biosphere reserves form a World Network in which participation by states is voluntary.
The UNESCO General Conference, at its 28th session, adopted Resolution 28 C/2.4 on the Statutory Framework of the World Network
of Biosphere Reserves. This text defines in particular the criteria for an area to be qualified for designation as a biosphere reserve
(Article 4). In addition, Article 9 foresees a periodic review every ten years, based on a report prepared by the concerned authority, on
the basis of the criteria of Article 4 and forwarded to the secretariat by the State concerned. The text of the Statutory Fra mework is given
in the third annex.
The form which follows is provided to help States to prepare their national reports in accordance with Article 9 and to update the data
available to the Secretariat on the biosphere reserve concerned. This report should enable the International Coordinating Council (ICC)
of the MAB Programme to review how each biosphere reserve is fulfilling the criteria of Article 4 of the Statutory Framework and in
particular the three functions. It should be noted that it is requested, in the last part of the form ( Criteria and Progress Made), to indicate
how the biosphere reserve fulfills each of these criteria.
The information presented on this periodic review will be used in a number of ways by UNESCO:
(a) for examination of the biosphere reserve by the International Advisory Committee for
Biosphere Reserves and by the Bureau of the MAB International Coordinating Council;
(b) for use in a world-wide accessible information system, notably for the UNESCO-MABnet and
publications, facilitating communication and interaction amongst persons interested in biosphere reserves throughout the world.
The form consists of three parts:
Part one is a summary highlighting the main changes in the biosphere reserve during the reporting period. Part two is more descriptive
and detailed, referring to the human, physical and biological characteristics as well as to the institutional aspects. Part three consists of
two Annexes (A): the first Annex (A.1) will be used to update the directory of biosphere reserves on the MABnet. The second annex will be
used to provide promotion and communication materials of the biosphere reserve (A.2). The third annex comprises the Statutory
Framework for the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere reserve at low tide.
This report is a periodic review under Article 9 of the Seville Strategy (UNESCO, 1995) of the existing North Bull Island
Biosphere reserve, a ‘first-generation’ biosphere designated in 1981 by UNESCO MAB. This is the first periodic review of
this Biosphere reserve. It has been prepared following discussions over a two-year period between Euro-MAB and Dublin
City Council, the managers of the Biosphere reserve, and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the MAB
Focal Point in the Republic of Ireland. This report is mainly concerned with assessment of the existing Biosphere reserve.
The process of preparing this periodic review has stimulated much discussion about the existing Biosphere and its
strengths and limitations in contributing to the Worldwide Network of Biosphere Reserves. Arising from this, a new
partnership has been forged which centers on Dublin Bay, where North Bull Island is situated, and protecting and
managing its resources sustainably using a Biosphere approach. We have assessed the designated Biosphere and how it
could go further to encompass the ecosystem of the Bay in a proposed Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve (DBBR).
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Looking beyond the existing situation to the prospect of a Dublin Bay UNESCO Biosphere reserve.
The proposed Dublin Bay UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is based on an ecological framework which is supported by
international and national legislation and implemented through legally-based and democratic governance structures. It
brings the existing North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Reserve out of isolation from the rest of Dublin Bay into a model
for managing biodiversity at an ecosystem level in an urban area. It presents a concept which is more identifiable to the
public and fosters greater awareness and wider engagement in active management by citizens.
Dublin Bay comprises a wetlands complex of international importance for its coastal and estuarine habitats and its
overwintering migratory bird populations. This complex also includes Baldoyle Bay to the north. The Biosphere will
encompass the Dublin Bay ecosystem in its totality.
The Biosphere will be composed of a core area of wetland areas designated as part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network,
supported by terrestrial buffer zones of parklands, greenbelts, golf courses and greenspace along watercourses that
directly supply the protected wetlands.
The proposed Biosphere extension will be a project which can meet the criteria for Biosphere reserves under Article 4 of
the Seville Strategy (UNESCO, 1995). We outline in the following section how this can be achieved and implemented to
greatly enhance the Worldwide Network of Biosphere Reserves.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
The term “mosaic” refers to a diversity of natural habitats and land cover types derived from human uses such
as fields, managed forests, etc. The term “major biogeographic region” is not strictly defined, but it would be
useful to refer to the map of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which presents major ecosystem types at
a global scale.
The extensive complex of species and ecosystems within the major national and Leinster province bioregions and
landscapes outlined spans a full spectrum of human intervention. This provides an opportunity to create a model of global
importance for promoting and demonstrating a sound balance between human development and sustaining the Biosphere
reserve. The effects of human intervention in terms of management of the biodiversity of the core areas is also of
importance, particularly as the proposed Biosphere includes part of a capital city.
The area includes numerous biological
communities over an extensive geographical
area that is centred on a estuarine and marine
bay. The terrestrial component of the proposed
Biosphere reserve consists of a peninsula at
Howth Head and the headland of Dalkey head,
two prominent headlands with nationally and
internationally important geological features
and heathland habitats (left), which define the
edge of Dublin Bay, together with several
islands within the Dublin Bay wetlands complex
North Bull Island (the existing reserve),
Ireland’s Eye and Dalkey Island. The
geomorphology of the bay and these islands
has led to the creation of an unusual variety of
microclimates and ecosystems within a defined
geographical region.
It includes a mosaic of terrestrial vegetation communities, wetlands (both saline and freshwater), river estuaries, coastal
ecosystems, islands, intertidal communities and a range of marine habitats. The resulting mosaic of zones and subtly
different microhabitats within them has created a larger system of great biological diversity. Dublin Bay is characterised by
the diversity, extent and often unusual nature of its vegetation and animal communities.
Human intervention is evident in the core areas, which contain national monuments and protected structures listed in
county development plans. These include such important features as:
pre-Christian portal tomb at Howth Castle (FCC, 1999)
Howth Castle
the North Bull Wall at Bull Island which generated the Island’s formation
historical features and monuments from the Iron Age through medieval era at Dalkey Island
Martello towers surrounding the Bay from Howth to Dalkey
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
This should refer not only to the numbers of endemic species, or rare and endangered species at the local,
regional or global levels, but also to species of globally economic importance, rare habitat types or unique land
use practices (for example traditional grazing or artisanal fishing) favouring the conservation of biological
diversity. Give only a general indication here.
The proposed DBBR contains sites of conservation interest at national and international level. The North Bull Island is the
most designated site in the Republic of Ireland, and has been officially recognised for its important biodiversity for a
century. There are 3 RAMSAR Convention sites: North Bull Island, Sandymount Strand in south Dublin Bay and Baldoyle
Bay. The DBBR has recorded 180 species of birds. It provides habitat for 30 species of water birds, with in excess of
37,000 water birds spending the winter in the bay complexes (30,000 in Dublin Bay and 7,000 in Baldoyle Bay) each year
(Birdwatch Ireland). It is internationally important for Light-bellied Brent Goose, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed
Godwit, and supports nationally important numbers of a further 18 species. These birds are protected under Ireland’s
international treaties with the Irish government's ratification in a number of conventions and agreements, including the
Ramsar Convention, the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, the Convention on Biological Diversity and, since 1999, the
African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds Agreement (AEWA) of the Bonn Convention. A total of 82 species of birds have
been recorded on the island of Ireland’s Eye and its waters (FCC, 1997).
Members of Birdwatch Ireland maintain nest boxes at Maiden’s Rock, Dalkey Island to support one of three national
colonies of Roseate Tern, an internationally endangered species. Ireland’s national population represents one-third of the
entire European population for this species (DLR, 2014).
Despite the urban and suburban nature of Dublin, we are still preserving some unique traditional land use practices
employed to favour the conservation of biological diversity. Prescribed use of fire, along with designed fire breaks, is used
to maintain biological diversity, especially in heathland vegetation. Traditional grazing by goats is also used in these areas
to manage vegetation. Protection, restoration and rehabilitation of native vegetation, and restrictions on land clearing
(voluntary and legislated), are the main measures to maintain and enhance biological diversity (FCC, 1999). Management
for natural grazing by protected species such as Irish hare and by rabbits is being promoted (McCorry and Ryle, 2009).
Dublin Bay has an unusually wide range of habitat types including grey and white dunes, embryonic dunes, semi-natural
grasslands, rocky shores, granite cliffs, granite outcrops, and saltmarshes. The Howth Head is of national geological
importance for its large-scale seafloor slumping and ‘olistostrome’ development (FCC, 1999). Much of the significant
decline in biodiversity is reflected in reduced types and numbers of rare species and habitat quality, and has been linked to
the loss habitat due to urbanisation over the past 1,000 years, but most intensively in the late 19th until the mid-20th
Centuries. Today, urban pressures on land use and on water quality and also climate change are key issues.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Dublin Bay still contains remnants of its original landscape and is representative of the many marine and coastal habitats
(particularly intertidal habitats) that are now increasingly under threat across Europe. For these reasons, the salt marshes
and wetlands of Dublin Bay are considered to be of national and international significance.
The proposed Biosphere holds several species of bryophytes of national and international importance (Lockhart, et al
2012). Ireland has one of the richest bryofloras in Europe, with over 50% of the European bryophyte flora represented in
Ireland. North Bull Island alone has five Red Data Book vascular plant species, four rare bryophyte species, and is
nationally important for three insect species (McCorry and Ryle, 2009).
Many plants in the DBBR are known to show great adaptation to extreme coastal conditions and variations of microclimate,
and significant genetic variation and hybridisation can occur (Doogue, et al 1999; Curtis and Wilson, 2013). Each of the
core zones contains unusual flora and fauna communities found in many remnant pockets of vegetation which exemplify
the landscape history of the Dublin region prior to its development as a capital city. Geological diversity is of national and
international importance for example at Howth and Dalkey headlands (FCC, 1999; DLR, 2014) and this variation in
substrate can have profound impacts on plant communities and heterogeneity of habitats in a small geographic area.
Floristically, the terrestrial core zones are not urban at all and include unusual, rare communities, and also rare plants
(Doogue et al, 1998). For example, it is of national importance for its variety of species and naturally-occurring hybrids of
orchids (Curtis and Wilson, 2013).
The DBBR includes nationally protected species of mammals. The Red Squirrel populations of Howth and Killiney Hill
have been maintained and increased through innovative projects involving the local communities and landowners, in
accordance with national Species Action Plans and international agreements. The North Bull Island and parts of the buffer
zone in north Dublin include populations of Irish Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus), a uniquely Irish sub-species of
a species of national and international importance, but under severe pressure from recreational disturbance and illegal
poaching (Nulty and Hayden, 2012). The research and projects undertaken are to ensure that these species are retained
in County Dublin to support national conservation plans.
Irish Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus), a uniquely Irish sub-species of a species of national and international
importance, at North Bull Island Biosphere reserve.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Based on data from the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency, there are 39 species of fish in the existing Biosphere. These
include commercially valuable nursery areas for the Irish Sea fishing zone which are then landed at Howth Harbour and
elsewhere. This presents an opportunity for seafood products to have Biosphere branding to communicate further the
message of sustainable fisheries and provide added value to the many seafood restaurants in the transition zone of the
proposed Biosphere extension.
Describe in general terms the potential of the area to serve as a pilot site for promoting the sustainable
development of its region or “eco-region”.
The existing Biosphere has a population of population of only about 455 persons. The proposed extension of the
Biosphere reserve has a permanent population of about 330,254 people (CSO, 2011).
Populations in biosphere:
Core Area(s) (permanent and
Buffer Zone(s) (permanent and
Transition Area(s) (permanent and
Within this area, there are several industrial estates,
two working harbours which include fishing and
passenger boats (Howth and Dun Laoghaire), Dublin
Port’s docklands (right), international shipping zones
and numerous service industries and commercial
activities. The tourist industry generates hundreds of
millions of Euro per annum and provides employment
for the Dublin region. Dublin Port plays a key role in
visitor related travel to and from Ireland. A study of
vehicle traffic associated with tourism in and out of
Ireland in 2009 by port showed that Dublin Port is the
main access point nationally (Power, 2009).
The Biosphere proposal will develop partnerships across several state bodies with responsibility for management of the
Dublin Bay region. It will demonstrate practical application of sustainability principles across activities within this area. The
Biosphere reserve also provides an opportunity to enhance the quality of core areas by developing green infrastructure
proposals for the buffer zone of publicly-owned parks, zoned agricultural green belts and open spaces and privately and
publicly-owned golf courses. This will limit adverse impacts on the core areas, such as controlling impacts on water quality
and intensified land use, and improve their sustainability for future generations with monitoring of improvements to these
areas over time. In time, these can present models of sustainable management for their land use types.
Most of the proposed Biosphere reserve is within 30 minutes’ drive of the Dublin City central business district. All of it is
inter-linked by public commuter electrified rail transport the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) line. Part of this line dates
to 1834 as the first railway built in Ireland, the Dublin and Kingstown Railway (D&KR) between Westland Row in Dublin and
Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire), a distance of 10 km. The D&KR were notable in being one of the earliest dedicated commuter
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
railways in the world. Today, it carries more than 80,000 passengers daily, offering them constantly unfolding views of
Dublin Bay. This line is also a Euroroute line, which links the UK-Ireland-France via the stations at Belfast-Dublin-Rosslare
(Europort station for the ferry to Cherbourg, Roscoff and Le Havre). This connects the Biosphere to the UK and France via
mainline diesel service, including first-class trains.
The Biosphere reserve area provides Dublin with an extremely important national special amenity area for recreation and a
conservation area of national and international importance on its doorstep. The opportunities and the necessity for the
capital city region to support sustainable development underpin the rationale for pursuing this Biosphere reserve proposal.
The local community believes in the value of Dublin Bay and understands the importance of carefully planning and
managing this area’s unique resources so that present and future generations will continue to enjoy its beauty and special
environmental quality.
The significance of Dublin Bay has also been stated in local authority and regional planning policies (see attached
Development Plans and Dublin Regional Planning Guidelines). Its recognition by various Ministerial Orders ensures a
legislative framework for its long-term protection.
The area, therefore, has enormous potential further promote sustainable development and to connect a largely urban
population with nature and raise awareness of biodiversity. The attributes that contribute to this potential include:
A community which holds strong values and associations with Dublin Bay as iconic of the capital city and a
reason why they choose to live here
A network consisting of numerous volunteer groups with a long history of advocacy for the protection of the Bay,
experienced in lobbying for and achieving this and of active engagement in environmental and conservation
A comprehensive system of existing and proposed support facilities (as outlined in section 3.3 above) to increase
public awareness about opportunities to develop models to promote sustainable practices.
The use of waterbody boundaries in the regional plan for this water district as the outer limits of the transition
area for water quality management purposes, so that management of suburban districts can promote sustainable
water management practices by landowners.
The existence of a diversity of several nationally and internationally important ecosystems which can promote
sustainable management of relevance to other locations in Ireland and abroad..
The proximity of the core areas to a significant urban population, including the research and education
communities, which can encourage study and learning to raise awareness and build local knowledge into
The example of managing fragile habitats while still allowing public access for their appreciation and enjoyment.
Diversity of industries and two international ports, both of which been identified as a long-term option for further
development, recognising its location, proximity to the capital and the environmentally sensitive area of Dublin
The existence of important rail transport corridors connecting the area with Dublin City Centre via commuter train
and beyond to the UK and France via mainline train service. The area is also connected to England and Wales
via ferry services from Dublin Port and Dun Laoghaire. There is a cycle route being completed which will connect
up all of the coastal villages along the Bay for the entirety of the proposed Biosphere, supported by the
availability of public bike hire on street through Dublin Bikes.
There is considerable public infrastructure within the area, which offers a high quality of life and the ability to
enhance opportunities for sustainable economic development.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Important fisheries in the Biosphere area, which provide significant food for both the local and export markets.
Active business and residents associations, which have the capacity and willingness to participate in programs
that improve sustainability and promote development without sacrificing the environmental objectives and
strategic plans.
The proposed project offers an opportunity to demonstrate the application of biosphere management concepts across a
capital city region and to explore its interaction with urban populations. While the core areas are most definitely not urban,
they are subject to urban pressures, and their management is dependent on sustainable development of the suburban
transition zone and meeting the recreational needs of the urban population. The existing Biosphere includes a Blue Flag
beach, a major resource within a capital city in Europe, at a time when many major European cities such as Madrid, Paris
and Berlin are creating artificial seasonal beaches to provide such facilities. Yet, the identity of the Biosphere core zones
as recreational areas is more in the minds of citizens than as nature conservation areas. This was revealed during several
surveys of the public undertaken for the preparation of this report. The challenge lies in harnessing the need for urban
citizens to connect with nature and gaining tolerance for limits of sustainability on urban growth.
The definition of an urban biosphere reserve is still evolving, but has been studied and considered by a UNESCO Working
Group. The proposed Dublin Bay Biosphere, while not entirely an urban one in the sense of those considered by that
Group, has elements which meet the concepts considered under the UNESCO Urban Biosphere project:
A Biosphere Reserve characterised by important urban areas within or adjacent to its boundaries where the natural,
socioeconomic and cultural environments are shaped by urban influences and pressures, and set-up and managed to
mitigate these pressures for improved urban and regional sustainability.’ (UNESCO, 2004)
The proposed DBBR offers a project which can possibly further assist in the implementation of the Shanghai Declaration
on Urban Futures and Human and Ecosystem Wellbeing (UNESCO-SCOPE, 2011), in which the delegates:
Call upon the international, national, regional and local communities to make full use of UNESCO MAB biosphere reserves
to enhance urban sustainability and to improve the relationships between cities and the ecosystems of which they are a
The Dublin site offers one which is interdependent on its surrounding urban context. It can encourage urban and suburban
dwellers to understand the background and history of the landscape within which the city has evolved. Dublin’s origins are
entirely arising from its situation on Dublin Bay and the influence of the Vikings who developed the potential of its natural
harbours, such as Howth, and built Dublin City. The capital is interlinked with this landscape history, which the Biosphere
can help to reveal more fully.
The proposal has received significant report from the
Education sector, as North Bull Island and the wider area of
Dublin Bay are already a valuable teaching resource which
could be enhanced further through an extension of the
Biosphere. The learning potential for a Biosphere reserve in a
site such as the proposed DBBR is enhanced by the
educational resources within the capital region, where the
Biosphere can promote learning to be transferred from
scientific, technical discourse to non-technical interaction to
inform public dialog. Meanings of ecological concepts are
applied to real situations in the Biosphere through models
(right). Once research has applied or refined models, the new
understanding can generate new metaphors to inform public
dialog or the interaction with scientists outside the specialty
responsible for the meaning and model (Pickett, Cadenasso
and Grove, 2003). Metaphor can be used as a tool for seeking connections between planning and the science of ecology
(Pickett, Cadenasso and Grove, 2003).
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
The relationship of the three kinds of connotation of ecological concepts (Pickett, Cadenasso and Grove, 2003).
Many BR’s now include parts of cities and urban settlements. A recently designated biosphere, Brighton and Hove BR in
the UK, includes the urban areas of Brighton & Hove, Lewes, Newhaven, Peacehaven, Shoreham, Southwick and
Telscombe which are ‘to represent the test beds for sustainable development’. The
Biosphere habitats specifically include urban greenspace as of as much significance as others.
Ireland has become increasingly urbanised in the past 40 years, and now 62% of Irish people live in urban settlements
(CSO, 2011), a major cultural shift from what was predominantly an agricultural nation prior to joining the European
Community. This is line with global trends (CBD, 2006). As more and more people live in cities, restoration, preservation
and enhancement of biodiversity in urban areas become important (Savard et al 2000).
The existing Biosphere is now increasingly required to support urban resilience of the capital region. Although each of the
terrestrial core zones are independent sites with different habitats and patch dynamics, they are all impacted by
socioecological factors and their management must adapt to this. Their coastal proximity is a common theme in terms of
climate microclimatic factors and climate change. The mosaic of habitats which exists offers a high degree of spatial
heterogeneity and complexity which is challenging to model. However, the Biosphere can demonstrate the metaphor of
urban resilience, and the significant role that ecological systems play and that ecosystem services provide in sustainable
planning. The key themes for the proposed Biosphere can be:
Island and coastal biodiversity
Urban resilience and urbanisation impacts on ecosystem services
Climate change and conservation of species and habitats
Conservation of rare species to preserve local landscape histories
Following extensive public engagement during this periodic review process, including:
on-street conversations where we spoke in depth with 335 people across Dublin
Biosphere roadshows as public events and festivals
site observations of over 4,500 users of the existing Biosphere
questionnaire surveys in person with 273 random users of the existing Biosphere at various locations
online questionnaire surveys of 1,049 residents of the Dublin Bay region
surveys of local businesses by email and in person
surveys of NGO’s by email on by telephone
we have determined there is a need for Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve. The results of the public engagement process,
which are detailed in this report, illustrate that, while there is some basic awareness of the importance of Dublin Bay for
nature conservation, it is limited and that the majority of the public do not have any awareness at all. They do value the
Bay, but their recognition is limited to its recreational aspects, and a narrow perspective on the ecosystem services that it
offers. Unfortunately, our online survey showed that the overwhelming majority (93%) have no awareness of the
conservation designations of sites for species and habitats of international importance for the Bay. Yet, nearly half (49%)
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
had some awareness of the Biosphere designation. This illustrates the usefulness of this as a metaphor which can be
developed further to connect the citizens with the Bay’s true resources.
This refers more particularly to (a) the surface area required to meet the long-term conservation objectives of
the core area(s) and the buffer zone(s); and (b) the availability of areas suitable for working with local communities
in testing out and demonstrating sustainable uses of natural resources.
The proposed Dublin Bay Biosphere reserve extends over about 122 square kilometres of marine area and 183 square
kilometres of terrestrial area.
These areas are large enough to promote the long-term conservation objectives of the core and buffer areas. The large
area of 172.6 square kilometres and population of 272,779 in the terrestrial transition area is more than adequate for
working with local communities in testing and demonstrating sustainable uses of natural and cultural resources. The
proposed Biosphere will include inhabitants beyond the existing population within Dublin City Council.
Population of the proposed Biosphere by administrative area of each local authority in Dublin Bay
Local Authority
No of persons
% of Biosphere
Dublin City
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown
The population for the proposed Biosphere is nearly evenly split in terms of gender. Just over a quarter of the population in
the proposed Biosphere has the ability to speak in Irish, and there will be programmes developed to promote the
indigenous language and culture, as well as for social inclusion of other cultures.
Gender and use of indigenous language in the proposed Biosphere
Total population of the Biosphere
% Population (male)
% Population (female)
% Population aged 3 or over by ability to speak
The existing North Bull Island Biosphere is an island reserve within Dublin Bay. As a first-generation biosphere, it was one
of only 23.73% of biospheres which attempted to include the three zones (Ishwaran et al 2008). The original biosphere
zonation was determined by the National Parks and Wildlife Service based on Irish legislation at that time (1980) and on
scientific surveys from the 1970’s. Although biosphere zonation was delineated, it was contained solely with the Island
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
itself, and therefore this limited its potential somewhat to influence development in the City and also to raise awareness of
its existence. It was ‘out there’, separate to the City and also unrelated to the rest of the Bay. This continues to constrain
the potential to raise awareness and make connections for sustainable development goals and integration of biodiversity
into the rest of the community.
The zonation of the existing site would not be appropriate for the current BR criteria, as it has a limited area for promotion
of sustainable development at a regional scale and inappropriate determination of zones. It includes golf courses as
transition zones. We believe that these golf courses should be delineated as buffer zones, because recent research (Nulty
and Hayden, 2011; HSI, 2014) indicates that they can provide habitat and shelter for protected species of the SAC at North
Bull Island. Also, we find that the existing site limits the core area to a singular area, the alder marsh of North Bull Island,
without fully recognising within the core zone the rest of the protected habitats of within the National Nature Reserve which
are of international importance and indeed the European sites surrounding it within Dublin Bay.
The terrestrial core and buffer zones within the proposed Biosphere reserve comprise areas of national special amenity
areas, national nature reserves, local nature reserves and local parks all reserved in public ownership. These areas have
outstanding natural and cultural values.
There were no marine core zones at the time of nomination of the existing Biosphere reserve. The recent successful
passage of legislation in 2010 for designation by Ministerial Order the Special Protection Areas within Dublin Bay will now
be possible to include these within the Biosphere. These will include: North Bull Island, Tolka Estuary/South Dublin Bay,
Baldoyle Estuary, Ireland’s Eye and Dalkey Island. More information about their boundaries can be found in Maps of this
document, and at the National Parks and Wildlife Service website Ramsar sites in Dublin Bay have been
identified as core zone, except that all shipping channels and harbours, have been excluded so as to be part of the
transition zone. The marine buffer zone is the extent of the waters of Dublin Bay, as defined by the Eastern River Basin
District Plan, which is regional plan covering all of the constituent local authorities and supported by national legislation and
the EU Water Framework Directive. The marine transition zone connects to the outer limits where it meets Marine Special
Area of Conservation designated under the EU Habitats Directive. We include a reference this Marine SAC, insofar as it
includes a conservation objective for the protection of the reef habitats in the marine buffer zone near Howth Head and
Dalkey Island in the proposed Biosphere, but much of its zonation is concerned with the conservation of the Harbour
porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) of extensive areas the Irish Sea and not primarily within Dublin Bay.
(a) A legally constituted core area or areas devoted to long-term protection, according to the conservation
objectives of the Biosphere reserve, and of sufficient size to meet these objectives.
Describe the core area(s) briefly, indicating their legal status, their size, and the main conservation objectives.
The following include the core areas of the proposed Biosphere reserve with management objectives extracted from the
relevant park management plans. The total size of proposed core areas is approximately 5,029 hectares, as compared to
the existing Biosphere which is just 80 hectares.
The proposed Biosphere is a continuous marine core area fringed by several independent terrestrial core areas which are
functioning as independent islands of biodiversity. The marine core area is 18.8 square kilometres and the terrestrial core
area is 31.5 square kilometres.
These terrestrial core areas have national protection and are important because they have different habitat types
supporting rare flora and fauna which are representative of the landscape history. These are crucial to maintain genetic
diversity, species diversity and cultural landscape history. They are:
Ireland's Eye Natural Heritage Area and Special Area of Conservation
Howth Head National Special Amenity Area
North Bull Island National Nature Reserve
Dalkey Island Special Area of Conservation
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
The marine core areas have national protection for their wetland habitats, which include estuarine and marine types. They
Baldoyle National Nature Reserve
North Bull Island National Nature Reserve and Special Protection Area
Tolka Estuary and South Dublin Bay Special Protection Area
Ireland’s Eye Special Protection Area (pictured below)
Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve also has 3 RAMSAR sites Sandymount Strand, North Bull Island and Baldoyle Bay.
Dublin Bay has additional designations under national spatial planning legislation. This comprises North Bull Island and
Howth Special Amenity Areas, which are designated for their beauty and the quality of the natural environment. All of the
Natura 2000 sites are also designated under the EU Water Framework Directive as Protected Areas.
The core area of the proposed Biosphere is further established through European legislation (Birds, Habitats and Water
Framework Directives) as transposed into Irish law. This process is being managed nationally by the National Parks and
Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The Biosphere’s core area will include 10
sites within the European Union’s Natura 2000 network. This includes Special Areas of Conservation designated to protect
a range of coastal and estuarine habitats and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated to protect migratory bird
populations In the mid-2000s Dublin was ranked 8th of European major cities (population 500,000 or more) in terms of its
number and extent of Natura 2000 sites (Sundseth and Raeymaekers, 2006) and since then, additional sites have been
The Biosphere will be a formal network of individual sites which recognizes the ecosystem of Dublin Bay. The
requirements of UNESCO to have a core zone of highest nature conservation value are readily met. The proposed DBBR
has core areas which are representative of the landscape prior to urban development yet it has characteristics of an
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
urban/urban fringe biosphere as advocated by Frost to ‘have more than one core area which is at least of SAC, SPA or
national nature reserve standard’ (Frost 2001) and where the European SAC helps to define the core areas (Frost 2001).
In the case of our proposed Biosphere, we have three core (two terrestrial and one mainly estuarine/marine) areas which
are National Nature Reserves and also SAC’s:
These nationally designated reserves, parks and special amenity areas are public land managed by the respective local
authorities. There are management plans in place which are legally binding under the Planning Act (2010) for Howth
Special Amenity Area and North Bull Island Special Amenity Area. There is a Local Area Plan under the same legislation
for Baldoyle Nature Reserve. The Dalkey Island Conservation Action Plan has been drafted in accordance with the
Development Plan and the Planning Act, and public consultation has completed. It is due to be finalised and published in
2014. All of these plans have been prepared using a collaborative planning approach, involving numerous stakeholders in
the decision-making and goal-setting processes. The planning process used to prepare the implementation strategies
have been equally engaging of local citizens. In the case of the Howth management plan, a demonstration project part-
funded under the European Union LIFE Programme, Fingal County Council and Dublin City Council, supported the
establishment of local planning groups to prepare and implement the plans over a 10 year period since 2002. For the aims
and objectives of each of the management plans, please see the attached Supporting Documents.
Howth Special Amenity Area has a Management Plan.
(b) A buffer zone or zones clearly identified and surrounding or contiguous to the core area or areas, where
only activities compatible with the management objectives can take place …
Describe briefly the buffer zones(s), their legal status, their size, and the activities which are ongoing and planned
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
The total area of the buffer areas is 82 square kilometres. The proposed DBBR includes both terrestrial and marine buffer
As indicated above, the proposed buffer zones initially are reserved and managed in public ownership by the respective
local authorities. In accordance with UNESCO criteria under Article 4 of the Seville Strategy, the buffer zone of the
proposed Biosphere is comprised of green areas which are currently not designated conservation sites but which can
support the core areas of Dublin Bay. These areas are part of the green infrastructure needed to support the biodiversity of
the core sites. These comprise: public parks, local nature reserves, historic park cemeteries, parklands and green spaces
adjacent to watercourses which supply Dublin Bay wetlands complex, golf courses and agricultural lands which are zoned
as greenbelt to support biodiversity functions and useful habitats (such as roosting and feeding for protected birds and
SCI’s of core areas). These may be considered as the so-called ‘third-tier’ sites (Frost, 2001).
Each of the terrestrial core zones has an associated buffer zone surrounding it. These are mostly contiguous, except in
the cases of the small offshore islands at Ireland’s Eye and the Dalkey Islands group, where there are sea cliff habitats.
These however are interlinked with the corresponding sea cliffs and nationally and internationally protected geological sites
at the adjacent headlands of Howth (for Ireland’s Eye) and Killiney/Dalkey greenbelt (for Dalkey Islands).
For the terrestrial buffer zones continuous with the Killiney Bay and Baldoyle Bay greenbelts, there is the opportunity for
the inclusion of private land where the owner so wishes. We include in these many privately-owned golf courses and
agricultural lands zoned for green belts. The green belts are zoned legally as such in the respective county Development
Plans under the Planning Act 2010, following public consultation and adoption by elected representatives. We will carry
out further consultation with the golf clubs within the proposed buffer zones. Several of these are already working on
projects for sustainable management with the three local authorities. These include projects such as species survey and
conservation, habitat creation, invasive species controls and awareness-raising. The proposed Biosphere project would
enhance coordination of these activities to maximise learning among the various individual clubs and to build a brand
image which can promote biodiversity and sustainable management. This in turn may bring economic benefits to these
clubs. Some of the clubs are already pursuing green credentials in their own right and are branding their clubs with local
protected species. However, the Biosphere project would greatly improve these initiatives and coordinate them regionally.
The buffer zones include public parks which, although they will never mimic or re-create the landscape history evident in
the core zones, provide parks which buffer the pressures of urbanisation and recreation to limit impacts on the core zones.
Some of the buffer zones have important species and habitats in their own right, e.g. Howth. They also provide roosting
and feeding in some sites for mobile protected species, including Brent, oystercatcher, etc. Some of the public parks are
especially important to Brent geese. The utilization of public green spaces by Brent is the subject of an ongoing study
hosted by the University of Exeter and coordinated through the Irish Brent Geese Research Group The Group is an all-Ireland body which is linked with researchers in the UK, Iceland,
Greenland and Canada. The inclusion of green spaces as buffer zone will continue to be informed by such research. This
will allow testing of concepts of biodiversity management of public parks beyond simply managing for the resident species
and consideration of temporal diversity and types of diversity (Savard et al 2002).
We know that, for many cities, there are ecological gradients. Cities are often ‘sinks’ for biodiversity and there are ‘source’
populations and habitats which sustain biodiversity on the urban fringes. Therefore, the biodiversity of a city is reflective of
its original landscape history (Savard et al 2000) and also of its connections to the sources of biodiversity. In the case of
Dublin Bay, we include the some of the source areas as the outer buffer zones. We would ultimately aim to include entire
catchments in the Biosphere reserve for rivers which feed into Dublin Bay. At this stage, we believe that targeted
management goals must prioritise the immediate waterbodies, which are lower sections of catchments and coastal rivers
which require more assessment. It is our goal to work further upstream and to include all of the relevant catchment areas
over time. This will ultimately serve to make the link between the capital and its origins in the landscape. The impact of
urbanisation on a given landscape is partially a function of the original composition of the landscape (Savard et al 2000).
To understand and manage for these impacts, the connections to the original landscape history should be preserved as
much as possible, and this will be a goal for the terrestrial core areas and also these urban fringe buffer zones.
We acknowledge that our source areas actually extend to other countries in the Arctic and Africa, in that our protected
migratory birds must be managed in these zones as well. Therefore, our Biosphere has international ecological networks
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
which extend over thousands of kilometers. We include the zones that the partners can directly manage for, but we need
the Biosphere to link to the zones outside of our direct management by way of partnerships and networks to other parts of
the landscape and to other Biospheres.
The buffer zone parks will offer opportunities for biodiversity management beyond protected species, which is the main
priority of the core areas (terrestrial and marine), although these can also be found in the buffer zone. We will be able to
consider other aspects such as conspicuous species, umbrella species and flagship species. Flagship species are
charismatic species which attract attention and which can be used to galvanise support for conservation efforts (Savard et
al 2000). This will be a means to engage the public with biodiversity in their localities.
Many of these parks already have individual Park Management Plans and/or Habitat Management Plans, such as St.
Anne’s, Irishtown Nature Reserve and Fr. Collins Park, which were completed in 2005-2012. We intend to expand this
approach to the remaining parks which constitute the buffer zone and to have the plans integrated more fully. For
example, Fr. Collins Park will integrate with an overall plan for the River Mayne Linear Park which traverses two local
authorities Dublin City and Fingal County Councils. The Park Management Plans have a statutory basis under the
Development Plans for each local authority, as they are listed objectives within those plans. Some of them require
updating and formal adoption by elected representatives. This will be an objective for the proposed Biosphere project to
The buffer zone includes key historic parks which will bring a cultural diversity dimension to the Biosphere. An example of
this is St. Anne’s Park, formerly the home of the Guinness family, owners of the world famous brewery in Dublin. These
offer ecotourism potential for the Biosphere. A biosphere which includes urban areas should have diversity cultural and
bio-diversity (Douglas and Box, 2000). The inclusion of these parks, a legacy of the era of the British Empire, will greatly
increase the multicultural dimension of the biosphere.
The historic walled garden of St. Anne’s Park, formerly the home of the Guinness family, will be in the buffer zone.
The partners are keen to develop a project specifically for golf courses in the Biosphere buffer zone. Some of the courses
are in public ownership or leased on publicly-owned lands. Most are in private ownership. We have already had some
collaborative projects with the golf courses in terms of invasive species control, species surveys (e.g. HSI survey at North
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Bull Island and red squirrels project with Deer Park in Howth) and stormwater management. As some are situated on
watercourses which supply the wetlands, the partners wish to prioritise these for best practice in sustainable management.
For public courses, this will include evaluation and monitoring of chemical usage, habitat and species surveys and
biodiversity action plans.
The marine buffer zone is the extent of the waters of Dublin Bay, as defined by the Eastern River Basin District Plan, which
is regional plan covering all of the constituent local authorities and supported by national legislation and the EU Water
Framework Directive. The marine buffer zone includes the ‘transitional waters’ of Dublin Bay as designated by the EPA
under the WFD.
The marine buffer zone will support conservation management objectives as defined by the NPWS for the respective
marine core areas and will be managed and monitored in accordance with the Programme of Measures of the Eastern
River Basin District Plan. This will provide a means to test and measure the effectiveness of activities in the proposed
The legal status of the buffer zone therefore is land or waters reserved in public ownership under the National Harbours
(and Amendments) Act, Foreshore (and Amendments) Act, the Planning Act and other legislation where appropriate. The
conservation management of the buffer zone will be in accordance with the Birds and Habitat Regulations, the Wildlife Act,
and other legislation where appropriate.
c) An outer transition area where sustainable resource management practices are promoted and developed.
The Seville Strategy gave increased emphasis to the transition area, since this is the area where the key issues on
environment and development of a given region are to be addressed. The transition area is, by definition, not
delimited in space, but rather is changing in size according to the problems that arise over time. Describe briefly
the transition area as envisaged at the time of nomination, the types of questions to be addressed there in the
near and the longer terms. The size should be given only as an indication.
The total area of the transition area is approximately 1,415 square kilometres. The transition area covers most of the
proposed Biosphere reserve with a very substantial extent of terrestrial and marine areas. The marine areas are required to
provide a full range of shipping, industrial, fisheries and recreation uses.
The terrestrial transition zone is based on the limits of waterbodies designated by the national Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) that are directly associated with Dublin Bay complex of
wetlands, including Baldoyle Bay. These waterbodies are defined in the Eastern River Basin District Plan, a regional plan
for water management which includes 12 local authorities in the district. The waterbodies are based on biological indices
developed by the EPA to assess the ecological status of the district. For the purposes of the biosphere transition zone
definition, we have selected the waterbody units which have been mapped in association with the proposed core areas
terrestrial and marine of Dublin Bay. These include the urban waterbodies for Dublin Bay, the Santry/Mayne sluice
waterbody which feeds into the National Nature Reserves at North Bull Island and Baldoyle Bay, and the Shanganagh
River waterbody, which feeds into the Dalkey Island and Dalkey Coast Zone designated core area. These waterbodies are
grouped into Water Management Units. We have included the main unit for Dublin Bay and the adjacent units for the
associated wetlands. These mostly follow natural watershed and sub-catchment boundaries. The units and waterbodies
are monitored and assessed by the EPA in conjunction with the local authorities, who have to implement the Programme of
Measures for each of the waterbodies.
We have to address the ecological status of these waterbodies to comply with the plan. Currently, these waterbodies are
not achieving good status. The Biosphere project will be a means for us to further these objectives cooperatively, across
the administrative regions, which are often divided by rivers, including the River Santry. The regional approach of the
Biosphere reserve to ecosystem management will aid considerably these efforts and will encourage greater public
participation in the Plan. The Plan also includes in its Programme the terrestrial and marine core areas, which are listed as
Protected Areas under national Water Regulations. The proposed DBBR will therefore be a mechanism to meet these
national requirements which must be delivered upon by 2027 for Dublin Bay.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
We have utilized the EPA waterbodies units for the basis of our terrestrial transition zone to prioritise the localities where
there are the greatest potential impacts on the protected core areas. These are the zones, as defined through
characterization under Article 5 of the Water Framework Directive by the EPA, which have the greatest ecological impacts
on the water quality and ecological status of Dublin Bay. We intend to use the presence of the Biosphere in these
neighbourhoods to create an ethos of sustainability which informs planning and development decisions, including the use
of sustainable drainage systems, green roofs, artificial nesting habitats and other measures, as advocated for biospheres
which include urban areas (Frost 2001). This supports current spatial planning policy as set out in the respective County or
City Development Plans of the constituent local authorities which support the use sustainable urban drainage systems
(SUDS) as part of a wider focus on the importance of green infrastructure in urban planning. Therefore, measures for
management, such as SuDS and habitat creation/restoration, would be prioritised in these areas to support the marine
core and buffer areas.
The partners are in agreement that the proposed transition zone is one which includes the most crucial areas for ensuring
favourable status of the core zone. This is based on our response to concerns raised by the NPWS in their Conservation
Management Plans for several Natura 2000 sites (North Bull Island and Baldoyle Bay) where the pressures of urbanization
are observed as affecting biodiversity and conservation status of SCI’s. This is also based on the monitoring reports for
ecological status and water quality of the ERBD, with greatest concern for waterbodies not achieving ‘good’ status and
which feed into the protected wetlands. We believe that, given limited resources, there must be prioritization to address
areas highlighted in statutory monitoring reports from the NPWS and WFD and these issues take precedence.
Potential for future expansion of the terrestrial transition area exists. The partners have already identified some localities
which may be suitable for inclusion in the biosphere. However, these are all outside of the immediate zone to the Bay as
designated in the ERBD Ecological Zones map under the EPA waterbodies units. The partners will review the definition of
the transition zone following the public consultation for their respective county and city development plans. Further review
may be warranted as new ecological data emerges from current projects such as the Dublin Bay Birds Project. If there is
demand from the public to increase the transition zones as citizens want to become part of the Biosphere, then the
partners will respond favourably and examine potential for expansion. The right of the citizens to determine the transition
zone will be recognized fully. The concept of an adaptable transition area was advanced further through the Seville
Strategy (UNESCO 1995; Ishwaran, et al 2008).
The proposed enlargement of the Biosphere includes coastal towns and villages of Dublin, By bringing the Biosphere right
through the where people are living, we will stimulate greater connections to the Bay and to nature. An biosphere which
includes urban and suburban districts should have diversity cultural and bio-diversity (Douglas and Box, 2000). The
inclusion of these districts will greatly increase the multicultural dimension of the biosphere, as well as increase social
inclusion. Many of the localities along the Bay enjoy spectacular views and are therefore more exclusive with high property
values. The proposed transition area also includes areas of social deprivation and which would benefit from economic
incentives that the Biosphere can bring. We have surveyed several communities as part of this study and there is an
interest in Dublin Bay that can generate greater community activism and educational opportunities. The presence of world-
class universities in the transition area will be a valuable resource to develop further.
The marine transition zone extends to the outer limits of Dublin Bay as defined by the EPA under the Eastern River Basin
District Plan. For Baldoyle Bay and environs, we have extended the marine transition zone to meet the Rockabill to Dalkey
Island Special Area of Conservation (SAC), based on survey data of bird usage. We do not include the entire extent of the
Rockabill to Dalkey Island (SAC) in the Biosphere, because it extends further up the coast of the Irish Sea, beyond the
Dublin Bay wetlands complex. This SAC is mainly designated for the Harbour Porpoise which also utilize Dublin Bay
although the Bay is not a designated area for this species. The ecological framework is not necessarily concentric in its
zonation (Frost 2001), but it has ecological connectivity. A key objective of the Biosphere will be to strengthen this
connectivity of ecological networks by development of spatial planning networks, transcending normal administrative
boundaries. This will promote biodiversity management at ecosystem level. The continuity of the marine transition zone
into Dublin Port and docklands affords distinct advantages for management and education. While there is a limited marine
buffer zone in this vicinity, there are a number of projects being progressed by the Dublin Port Company, a partner in the
proposed Biosphere. These include species management plans for Arctic and Common Terns which include the
construction of artificial nesting platforms within this transition zone at several locations. These are the subject of
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
experimental research and testing which can be of benefit to other sites internationally. Additionally, Dublin Port are
funding a study by Birdwatch Ireland the Dublin Bay Birds Project which will encourage citizen science through ringing
and recording of bird species and their movements within Dublin Bay and in other countries, to track networks between
sites and usage within the Bay of the feeding resources. This will further serve to provide baseline and to encourage
management of the marine transition zone to support the marine core areas.
A goal of the proposed Biosphere is to achieve sustainable use of the area’s natural and cultural resources while balancing
the economic and social needs of the capital region. Private land in the transition zone is subject to an existing
comprehensive legislative and policy planning framework implemented by all levels of government local, regional and
national. The creation of the Biosphere reserve does not alter in any way the legal rights or obligations of property owners,
nor will it affect the existing frameworks.
Proportion of designated to non-designated area
In our existing Biosphere, there was mainly a core area (one single ecotype zone which was defined pre-Natura 2000
designations of 10 distinct protected habitats), a buffer zone (comprising a national nature reserve) and a transition zone of
two golf courses. The proposed biosphere will greatly increase the overall area of the Biosphere from 10 square kilometers
to 305 square kilometers.
Area (ha)
Area (%)
Area (ha)
Area (%)
The biosphere reserve concept can allow conservation and development relationships to be developed where more than
80% of the designated area lies outside of legally protected core zones (Ishwaran et al 2008). The biosphere reserve is
the only international designation where this is the case and also where all major ecosystem types, including urban
ecosystems, are covered (Ishwaran et al 2008). In our proposed project, there is approximately 84% non-designated
buffer and transition zonation. Our core area is therefore doubled terms of percentage of the overall Biosphere and
increased significantly the overall reserve to an area thirty times the original reserve.
Many of these arrangements are in place and additional arrangements will be progressed. All of the core areas and much
of the buffer areas are land in public ownership with development controls under existing environment and planning
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
legislative frameworks. In the longer term, private land owners will be encouraged to be added to buffer areas through
voluntary co-operative arrangements. The very large transition area is mostly in private ownership. The legal rights or
responsibilities of these owners are not changed in any way as a result of the Biosphere reserve designation.
Organisational arrangements will be provided for the involvement and participation of a suitable range of public authorities,
local communities and private interests in the design and the carrying out of the functions of a Biosphere reserve. The
primary focus will be to inform, educate and facilitate local communities and industries in furthering the conservation and
enhancement of the biological diversity of their environment.
At present there is partnership established to facilitate the preparation of this project and promote the value of the
Biosphere reserve to the region. It includes representatives of the community, together with those from State and local
Business associations in the area have also been engaged in discussions, together with community groups and
Following successful periodic review, the administrative structure to operate the Biosphere reserve will be operational (see
next section).
We believe that the proposed Biosphere project will not generate the need for a large administrative structure; the focus
will be on project outcomes mostly in partnership with the five bodies comprising the now-established Dublin Bay
Biosphere Partnership. These are:
Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht - which includes the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the
Heritage Council, the National Monuments Section and the National Biodiversity Data Centre
Dublin Port
Dublin City Council
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council
Fingal County Council
This Partnership has been established by a Memorandum of Understanding (attached). It is based on as structure that has
previously been used in Ireland, notably for the Dublin Mountains. This body will not be a planning reference body,
involved in land-use planning deliberation or discussions, but will obviously make information available when requested.
The Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership will formulate a Biosphere strategy and facilitate, promote and support Biosphere
programs. The governance stucture will be democratic, inclusive, accessible and reflective of local communities. This
Partnership will include representatives of national and local government, the Port and the community, and have access to
the provision of expertise covering the interests of: conservation of nature, conservation of built heritage, sustainable
planning, promotion of native language, education and research, industry, training and job promotion, tourism,
communication and marketing.
Does the proposed Biosphere reserve have:
(a) Mechanisms to manage human use and activities in the buffer zone or zones?
Yes. Management of human use in the core and buffer zones (public land) is provided by consultative planning processes
backed by the existing regulatory enforcement, in accordance with approved regional and county development plans.
Management plans are the product of consultative planning processes and these areas are permanently protected under
existing legislative and institutional frameworks.
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(b) A management plan or policy for the area as a Biosphere reserve?
It is planned to prepare a management plan for the area as a Biosphere reserve. The existing Biosphere reserve at North
Bull Island has a management plan since 2001 and revised in 2009. This plan was developed from consultative planning
processes. Each of the proposed terrestrial core areas has an individual management plan and conservation management
objectives supported by national legislation. The marine core area has conservation management objectives supported by
national legislation. These plans will ensure protection in the interim until the Biosphere reserve plan process is completed.
(c) a designated authority or mechanism to implement this policy or plan?
Planned. A non-statutory Biosphere Partnership, as indicated above, will arrange co-operative programs mainly through
the vehicle of voluntary partnerships.
(d) Programs for research, monitoring, education and training?
Describe briefly research/activities monitoring (ongoing or planned) as well education and training activities.
A large body of research has been undertaken within the proposed Biosphere reserve (see Supporting Documents for
compilation of research since 1995). The data on biological resources, in particular, are very extensive. These will provide
an ideal basis for setting of indicators for future monitoring. An Education Network is being established, with informal
meetings already having taken place. The wide involvement of government and university institutions, together with strong
community and industry support, are expected to provide further research and advanced monitoring.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Part I: Summary
North Bull Island Biosphere Reserve
The existing Biosphere has been named since inception in 1981 as North Bull Island Biosphere Reserve. We
propose that this name will be changed to Dublin Bay Biosphere Reserve to reflect the proposed changes to
the extent of the Biosphere and to integrate fully the North Bull Island into its surrounding landscape context.
This name is agreeable to all of the local government bodies concerned, the National Parks and Wildlife Service
and Dublin Port as partners in the new Biosphere under a joint Memorandum of Understanding. The importance
of Dublin Bay to Dubliners, as evidenced by recent public surveys, will ensure that this new name will strengthen
the awareness and broaden the support for the Biosphere more than the previous name.
Republic of Ireland
This is the first periodic review.
In 2012, with the assistance of Professor Claire Cave, University College Dublin, DCC hosted a site visit to North
Bull Island Biosphere by Mr. Thomas Schaffe, former Director of EuroMAB and a meeting at the University.
During this initial meeting, Mr. Schaffe discussed the need to conduct a periodic review process. Prof. Cave met
with Leslie Moore, City Parks Superintendent and Maryann Harris, Biodiversity Manager, at Dublin City Council
offices in December 2012 to examine how this review might be conducted. During a meeting in Dublin on 22
May 2013, with Dublin City Council, Mr. Schaffe advised of the need to bring the definition of the zones of the
Biosphere in line with the Seville Strategy and the Madrid Action Plan. It was agreed that DCC would contact
Ms. Meriem Bouamrane, Euro-MAB in the first instance, to seek advice on this process. Maryann Harris made
contact on 30 September 2013 with Ms. Bouamrane to advise her that DCC would submit a periodic review
report by 30 March 2014. Mr. Han Qunli wrote to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in November 2013 to
advise that the first stage of the exit strategy for both biospheres in Ireland had commenced and that a periodic
review report for both reserves was required by UNESCO by 5 February 2014.
Dublin City Council provided the Management Plan for North Bull Island Biosphere in 2012 to Mr. Thomas
Schaffe and in 2013 to Ms. Meriem Bouamrane of Euro-MAB. Dublin City Council wrote on 30 September 2013
of their intention to retain the biosphere designation and to examine a means to extend the reserve. DCC stated
that it should be extended because:
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Since designation, other areas nearby and within Dublin Bay and Tolka Estuary have received Natura 2000 status
and are of conservation importance to the Biosphere due to species mobility between sites.
The Reserve’s recreational potential and management is best served by linkages to recent proposals for a cycling
route encircling Dublin Bay and linking the Biosphere to the city centre, the Port and the rest of the bay side
The economic value of the Biosphere Reserve is not fully served by the current boundary, which is primarily based
on habitat values alone.
Awareness of the Biosphere Reserve is still poor, and by changing the boundary, we hope to bring greater
community involvement in its management and understanding of its value in terms of ecosystem services. This is
particularly important due to the major changes in understanding of climate change since designation.
Following this correspondence, EuroMAB wrote to NPWS seeking a periodic review report from each of Ireland’s
two Biospheres. This was received by Dublin City Council in November 2013 and this report is in response to
that request. An initial deadline of 5 February 2014 was met by a submission of a draft periodic review report by
Dublin City Council. This report is the final periodic review report to meet the deadline of 30 September 2014.
The City Parks Superintendent attended the EuroMAB Conference in October 2013 in Brockville, Ontario to
develop linkages with other networks. He and the Biodiversity Manager also attended the UK MAB meeting in
Belfast in November 2013 to work on improving exchange with the UK biospheres and the UK MAB Urban
Forum. Dublin City Council hosted Ms. Meriem Bouamrane, MAB-Europe on 27-29 August 2014 for a site visit to
the existing North Bull Island Biosphere Reserve and to the wider area of a proposed Dublin Bay Biosphere
Reserve which is proposed in this report.
Since designation, there have been a number of measures to strengthen and achieve the objectives of the
biosphere reserve.
Increased environmental
The core objective of the
biosphere is management of
the alder marsh for productive
dune slack (right, with view
toward Howth Head). The
rest of North Bull Island,
excluding the golf courses,
and its waters are the
biosphere reserve. Since the
biosphere was designated,
this entire area has now been
designated as a Special Area
of Conservation under the EU
Habitats Directive. This has
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
strengthened the conservation objectives of the biosphere and made them legally binding under European and
Irish law. It has also meant that all planning and development throughout Dublin City must, under Article 6 of the
Habitats Directive, be screened for any potential impacts on the Natura site and, if necessary, an Appropriate
Assessment report must be prepared to demonstrate that a development will not affect the integrity of this site in
the biosphere. This is of great importance, as the plan or project cannot proceed if it may potentially have
negative impacts on the biosphere. The Birds and Habitats Regulations (2011) include provisions for this
screening and also, for the first time, list legally designated invasive species, including the two species we are
trying to eradicate in the biosphere.
Increased planning protection and development controls
Furthermore, since the
biosphere designation, the
entire biosphere reserve area
has been designated under
Irish law through the Planning
Act as a national Special
Amenity Area by Ministerial
Order. This measure brings the
most stringent controls for
planning and development of
the area to protect its amenity
and natural beauty. The Howth
Peninsula (right), which is the
landscape feature which
encloses North Dublin Bay,
where the biosphere island is
situated, is also now
designated as a national Special Amenity Area by Ministerial Order through the efforts of the adjacent local
government body, Fingal County Council. The presence of two national amenity areas side by side in the
landscape means that the development of this unique and sensitive landscape is highly controlled. This offers
strong protection of the biosphere’s objectives and offers great potential for attraction of visitors to explore the
biosphere and has increased the desirability of people to reside in its vicinity.
Management Plan for North Bull Island
Since designation of the biosphere as a National Special Amenity Area, Dublin City Council has prepared
management plans for North Bull Island. These have a statutory basis under the Planning Act and cannot be
overturned without a full report and public consultation and by a formal voting procedure of public
representatives. Any proposed changes to the National Special Amenity Area must be approved by the Minister
for the Environment through a formal review process.
The most recent Management Plan was prepared in 2008 and was ratified by the elected representatives of
Dublin City Council in 2009. We attach the plan for information purposes. This plan is due to be reviewed and
updated in 2014, as the review is scheduled on a five-year basis. This will take into account any changes in the
biosphere and recent legislation, such as the Birds and Habitats Regulations (2011).
Conservation Objectives for the Core Area
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
The National Parks and Wildlife Service is the statutory body in charge of designating the Natura 2000 Network
in Ireland. Their responsibilities under the Habitats Directive include the setting of targets for each designated
habitat to be managed, monitoring of these habitats and their status and the setting out of conservation
objectives. These are legally-binding strategies and planning and development is controlled to ensure that these
objectives are not prevented from being met. The NPWS completed this task in 2013. They do not consult
during their preparation, but they publish the reports so that they are publicly available. These reports will be
used during the revision of the Management Plan and will provide strategies specific to the core area of the
biosphere reserve.
Raising Awareness of the Biosphere
We measured awareness of the Biosphere in our public engagement process. The results of the Your Dublin
Your Voice Survey showed that 49% were aware of the Biosphere designation. Awareness was higher on the
northside, nearest the Biosphere, than on the southside of Dublin Bay.
Awareness of Dublin Bay’s Designations and Projects
Dublin City Council
Fingal County Council
South Dublin County Council
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown CC
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at North Bull Island
by local authority
% heard of
Awareness of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at North Bull Island was
highest among respondents in the Dublin City Council local authority
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Awareness of Dublin Bay’s Designations and Projects
Awareness of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at North Bull Island was
highest among respondents with a third level non-degree qualification
Primary / elementary education
Secondary / High School education
Technical or vocational
Third level non-degree
Third level degree
Third level postgraduate
Fourth level degree
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at North Bull Island
by education
% heard of
Awareness of the Biosphere was actually higher for groups without third-level education, a perhaps surprising
Awareness of Dublin Bay’s Designations and Projects
Awareness of Dublin Bay’s Special Protection Areas was higher among
older respondents
Over 65
Dublin Bay's Special Protection Areas
by age group
% heard of
The lowest level of awareness was in the category of young adults (ages 18-30). We did not survey children in
this online survey.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
There are several ways in which we are raising awareness of the importance of the biosphere. These include:
A programme of events covering a range of themes and means of communication
A leaflet for visitors
Upgraded presentations on the biosphere, including a film
A site guide produced with Birdwatch Ireland to many of the key species
A feasibility study to examine how to improve visitor facilities at the existing Interpretative Centre
Enhanced information on the DCC website and recently constructed biodiversity blog
A special broadcast on state television about the biosphere and the community’s involvement in the sea
buckthorn removal programme will be shown on the popular news digest programme, ‘Nationwide’, in
April 2014. This will be as part of a special programme celebrating 1000 years since the historic ‘Battle of
Clontarf’ in 1014, which took place partially within the biosphere area. Based on previous ratings, it is
possible that this will attract up to 500,000 viewers. It will also be available for download on the internet
through ‘RTE Player’ for an even wider audience.
The biosphere was featured on the main national evening news in 2012 with the launch of the Dublin
Biodiversity Audio Tour, a free podcast information service about Dublin’s parks developed by the Centre
for Biodiversity Research at Trinity College Dublin in cooperation with Dublin City Council. The
viewership of this is news programme is approximately 720,000 viewers. Please see the TCD website for
the audio tour link and interactive map:
The biosphere was featured on a national television programme and in the national media in April and
May 2014 for its innovative approach to invasive alien species management.
Developing the Educational Resource
The biosphere is a major centre for research by local groups, national universities and even students from other
countries. These are some of the measures that we have progressed:
Becoming a national centre for ‘Discovery Primary Science’ a national educational programme
coordinated by Science Foundation Ireland which includes teacher training
Establishing a Biosphere Education Network
Working with third-level bodies to coordinate research studies
Providing direct funding for research to meet objectives of the Management Plan since 2009
Providing data for researchers through the visitors’ centre
Hosting increasing numbers of school tours and field trips
Working with environmental non-governmental organizations who study the biosphere
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Students from University College Dublin in Geography and Landscape Architecture on a site visit to the
Proposal to extend the ecological network of the Biosphere to include the Dublin Bay ecosystem
The periodic review process has stimulated an evaluation by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the
three local authorities which govern the Dublin Bay region of the objectives for this biosphere reserve and its
compatibility with objectives for biodiversity conservation for Dublin City and metropolitian region. The
application of the ecosystem management approach of biosphere reserves needs to be more fully realized to
ensure that North Bull Island BR is conserved and managed successfully. This will involve expanding the
boundaries of the BR to better meet UNESCO MAB criteria and to tie the BR into the wider management of
Dublin Bay, where the island is situated, and Dublin itself. We have established the Dublin Bay Biosphere
Partnership as a means of formalising a new governance structure to create a transboundary BR. This will
include all of the three local authorities which govern Dublin Bay, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and
Dublin Port.
This is a summary of what we have been doing. Please see the following sections of the report for further
The review is being prepared by Dublin City Council Parks Services in cooperation with various state bodies,
non-governmental organisations since September 2013. It is completed by 30 September 2014.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Previous report (nomination form or
periodic review)
and date
Proposed changes (if any)
Area of terrestrial Core Area(s)
80 ha
3,148.73 ha
Area of terrestrial Buffer Zone(s)
186 ha
5,161.94 ha
Area of terrestrial Transition Area(s)
742 ha
9,989.17 ha
Area of marine Core Area(s)
1,880.67 ha
Area of marine Buffer Zone(s)
3,079.11 ha
Size of marine Transition Area(s)
7,277.19 ha
The human population of the existing biosphere is low due to lack
of settlement in protected areas. However, the beaches and
amenities of the biosphere serve the population of the capital of
Ireland. Dublin City, as the nation’s capital, is the most populated
area of the country. It has a resident population of 525,833, based
on the 2011 national census, The daytime working population of
Dublin City and suburbs in April 2011 was 469,987, of which
117,764 commuted from outside the area to work in the city,
representing a quarter of the city’s workforce. Addtionally, tourism
and visitors increase the daytime population. North Bull Island is
the only Biosphere worldwide which includes within its area a national capital city. Therefore, its impact on
society is higher than for just the immediate resident population.
Previous report (nomination form
or periodic review) and date
At present (please state date of
census or other source)
Core Area(s) (permanent and
Buffer Zone(s) (permanent and
Transition Area(s) (permanent and
455 persons in 196 households in total;
224 males, 231 females (2011 national
census, CSO)
Budget in the previous report (nomination
form or periodic review) and date
Current budget
Not applicable
€110,000 per annum
Budget Source: Dublin City Council
Includes staff costs, operation of Centre
and expendables
North Bull Island is the
only Biosphere worldwide
which includes within its
area a national capital city.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Describe, where applicable, the contribution of the biosphere reserve to achieve objectives
and developing mechanisms that contribute to the implementation of international or
regional bilateral or multilateral agreements, conventions, etc.
Some our links to various agreements and projects include:
RAMSAR Convention cross-city management of 2 sites in Dublin Bay, including one at North Bull Island
Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.
Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals
EU Birds and Habitats Directives
Convention on Biological Diversity
African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds Agreement (AEWA)
I-Webs/Birdwatch Ireland and international flyways
CITES Agreement
URBIS Initiative
Research agreements with national and international universities
EU LIFE Project - Suburban Environmental Management a Participatory Approach (SEMPA): included the
communities of north Dublin Bay which are part of the Biosphere
The Biosphere Reserve will retain the North Bull Island as an Internationally-recognized site and thus implicitly
support the sites designations at a European Level (within Habitats and Birds Directives)
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Part II: Periodic Review Report
1. BIOSPHERE RESERVE: North Bull Island Biosphere, Dublin, Ireland
Not applicable
Not applicable, as this is the first periodic review.
There are several factors which present North Bull Island Biosphere Reserve with unique challenges and opportunities to
fulfilling the three functions of its mandate (conservation, sustainable development, and logistic role). These include: (1) the
age of the biosphere reserve, (2) its multiple international and national designations, (3) the administrative structure of
Dublin Bay in relation to these designations, and (4) the high concentration of development pressures generated by a capital
city with a working international port. Each of these factors is noted briefly below.
1) The establishment of the Biosphere Reserve was in the earliest stages of the worldwide network. While UNESCO
has moved on considerably in its definition and application of the biosphere concept, this has not happened in turn with
Ireland’s approach to biosphere management. The conservation function has remained the primary one associated with the
biosphere concept in Ireland. Conservation planning and management in Ireland remains largely the function of state
bodies and it has only recently been devolved more widely under the revised National Biodiversity Action Plan for Ireland in
2011. For example, the Plan requires that every state body, including local authorities, is to have a designated officer for
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
biodiversity by 2016. There is still a need to devise strategies for urban biodiversity management in Ireland, and the
biosphere concept could be a useful tool for this, as it promotes several actions in the National BAP. Awareness of the
biosphere reserve designation is lower than we would like, in part because of the age of the designation and the need to
ensure continuity of knowledge in the organisations and community groups managing the biosphere. A survey in August
2014 of 1,049 Dubliners found that 49% of respondents were aware of the Biosphere designation whereas only 7% were
aware of the Natura 2000 designations in Dublin Bay. This suggests that the Biosphere concept is making a bigger impact
on urban dwellers across the three Dublin local authorities than the
European Union conservation designations. We hope to build on this
aspect in our proposed ‘Dublin Bay Biosphere’.
2) The biosphere is unique in Ireland in the number and types of
international and national designations it has been bestowed with. It has
had designations for nature conservation for 100 years and is the most
designated site in the Republic of Ireland. A flow diagram below illustrates the process and timeline of these designations.
Diagram of designation process for North Bull Island Biosphere Reserve (1914-2014).
3) The governance of Dublin Bay is complex, with three local authorities Dublin City, Fingal County Council and
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council governing it. Dublin Port is controlled and administered by Dublin Port
Company, a semi-state body. The docklands, until a year ago, had been governed by the Dublin Docklands Development
Authority (now subsumed into Dublin City Council). The Department of the Marine governs the marine areas of the Bay.
Under the Harbours Amendment Act (2009), the Minister for the Environment controls many of the channels and water
bodies surrounding North Bull Island. The designated areas under the Birds and Habitats Directives are subject to controls
authorised by the National Parks and Wildlife Services under the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. All of
these structures have developed into a more complex situation than was envisaged at the time of the biosphere designation
(1981). There is a requirement to determine a future governance structure for the biosphere which will actively engage all of
the key players in Dublin Bay which impact on biosphere management and which may be benefitting from the ecosystem
services the biosphere offers. This will be an opportunity to enhance cooperation by using the biosphere model and working
together with the communities of Dublin Bay to re-define the biosphere and hopefully extend it further. This report includes
a proposal to extend the Biosphere to include the entire Bay and its surrounding communities to reflect an ecosystem
management approach.
1.5.1 Stakeholders
The periodic review is ongoing over the past year and there are still many stakeholder meetings planned for the coming
months. The process so far has involved:
The biosphere is the most
designated site in the
Republic of Ireland
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
National statutory bodies: NPWS, Department of the Marine; Failte Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Bord Iscaigh na Mara
(Seafood), Sea Fisheries Protection Agency, Department of Education, Science Foundation Ireland, Department of Arts,
Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Department of the Environment
Local authorities: various departments and elected representatives within Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Dun
Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council, Eastern River Basin District (ERBD) management team
and staff of the 12 local authorities within the ERBD
Universities: Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, NUI Maynooth, Dublin City University, Dublin Institute of
Environmental non-governmental organisations: Birdwatch Ireland, Brent Geese Research group, Bull Island Action Group,
Dublin Community Growers, Raheny Tidy Towns, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Coastwatch Ireland, An Taisce (national heritage
body), Green Schools, Dublin Naturalists Field Club, Clontarf Ladies’ Club, Herpetological Society of Ireland, Irish Wildlife
Trust, Howth Special Amenity Area Committee. Please see Section 2.4.3 for further details.
Local landowners, local park users and local schools and citizens
across Dublin region are involved under the public engagement
1.5.2 Methodology for stakeholder involvement
The process has included meetings in with the organisations above,
collaboration on sections of this report in writing content, surveys of the
public and meetings with experts. We carried out surveys of:
recreational users at North Bull Island Biosphere through face-
to-face surveys on site
information days at the North Bull Island Biosphere coinciding
with events for World Wetlands Day, National Biodiversity
Week, National Heritage Week, Kite Festival, International Kite-
surfing Event and throughout the summer months when it is
information days at public events throughout Dublin City and
Bay, including an ‘eco-village’ at the Rose Festival, a display for
families at Dun Laoghaire Harbour Festival, the Dublin Viking
Festival, the Battle of Clontarf Millennium Event, the Liffey Swim
Race (city centre) and at shopping centres
the wider public through on-street conversations throughout
Dublin City centre and coastal villages (right)
the wider public of the Dublin region through an online survey
‘Your Dublin Your Voice’
local businesses through an email and face-to-face surveys
NGO’s through an email survey
Workshops by Global Action Plan for schools in the three Dublin
local authorities
We held numerous meetings with the various groups stated in section
1.5.1. We posted information on the project on DCC’s webpage,
‘Citizen Space – have your say’. All of the feedback we received
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
regarding the existing and proposed Biosphere was documented in minutes, survey results and in forming the agenda for
future meetings. We are still analysing some of the survey data in greater detail, and this will continue as part of a
postgraduate research project this year. There are further workshops planned in the coming months on themes of:
education, biodiversity action plan review, development plan review, NGO’s and governance, sharing of services between
local authorities, recording and involvement of the National Biodiversity Data Centre, stormwater management for Dublin
Our questionnaire surveys received over 1,700 responses in total from members of the public, businesses and NGO’s. We
communicated directly with approximately another 1,000 people (conservative estimate) additionally at events in Dublin City
and Bay throughout the year and at the Visitors’ Centre at North Bull Island. We interacted with a range of ages,
socioeconomic groups and localities. We also met with all the main governmental bodies concerned with Dublin Bay to
develop the proposals for the new Biosphere.
1.5.3 Frequency and schedule of stakeholder involvement process
The review process timeframe started in October 2013. Please see Supporting Documents for our Public Engagement
Strategy prepared for Dublin City Council by Global Action Plan Ireland. There have been meetings on a weekly basis of a
core team within DCC and regular phone and email contact with scientific staff in the NPWS. There were three specific site
visit meetings over a total of 2.5 days and further 2 days of content review meetings between DCC and the NPWS. There
were approximately 6 no. monthly meetings with the local authorities since January 2014. There has been ongoing contact
with other stakeholders, including universities and Government departments. A workshop is planned for spring with these
We also held an event on ‘Water and Heritage’ jointly between the ERBD and the three Dublin Bay local authorities in Dun
Laoghaire, Howth and North Bull Island which was then followed by an official visit from Ms. Meriem Bouamrane. We had
each local authority and many NGO’s and community groups give presentations both in a formal workshop setting and also
on site at various locations where community projects are taking place including:
Guided site visit by boat tour of Dublin Bay, including Dublin Port and the River Liffey, North Bull Island, South
Dublin Bay, North Dublin Bay, Dun Laoghaire and Howth Harbours, Ireland’s Eye protected seabirds colony with all
participants and with presentations on habitats and species by Birdwatch Ireland (Niall Tierney), Dublin Port
(Richard Nairn), Fingal County Council (Gerry Clabby and Hans Visser), Dun Laoghaire (Joe O’Connor) and North
Bull Island (Maryann Harris)
National Maritime Museum, Dun Laoghaire presentation on cultural and marine heritage of Dublin Bay
Dun Laoghaire presentations on marine heritage, on the ‘Outdoors Project’ of community participation, on the
Dublin Bay Birds Project, on the Coastwatch survey and Dublin Seashells Survey by community volunteers, on the
results of public engagement surveys in the Biosphere, on natural hertage of the Biosphere and on future concepts
for the biosphere; water quality protection and management in the ERBD; site visit to Dalkey Island SAC and
presentation of the cultural and natural heritage including the Terns Conservation Project.
Howth presentations by the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival, the Howth Special Amenity Area Management Plan by its
Committee and Fingal County Council, strategies for the Biosphere in Fingal, a site visit with community volunteers
on the Cliff Path Restoration Project for Howth, site visit to the ‘Goats for Howth’ Project and heathlands
management in the Natura 2000 SAC, walking tour of Howth Harbour and sustainable fisheries/food in the
Biosphere presentations
North Bull Island site visit to the Nature Reserve and Core Zone of the UNESCO Biosphere where we had
presentations on conservation management by the government bodies and community/NGO’s including:
Herpetological Society (Collie Ennis) herpetofauna survey of the core and buffer zones by the community
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Irish Seal Sanctuary (Brendan Price) seal conservation and rescue programmes at North Bull Island and Dublin
National Parks and Wildlife Service (Feargal O’Coighligh, Brian Nelson, Maurice Eakin, Niall Harmey) monitoring
and management of the Natura 2000 sites, including marsh fritillary in the core zone of the Biosphere, site
management issues
Dublin Naturalists Field Club (Declan Doogue) citizen recording in Dublin, flora and fauna, rare species
management issues, ecology of the dunes complexes
Bull Island Action Group volunteer management of the biosphere, awareness raising
Data collection by Herpetological Society of Ireland
1.5.4 Description of stakeholder attendance, representation and participation levels
Yes. Please see above sections for details of all stakeholders. The participation was active and included people who had a
long-standing interest since the earliest days of the biosphere reserve and current students and young people.
Narrative account of important changes in the local economy, landscapes or habitat use, and other
related issues. Note important changes in the institutional arrangements for governance of the
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
biosphere reserve area, and changes (if any) in the coordinating arrangements (including the
biosphere reserve organization/coordinator/manager) that provide direction for the biosphere
reserve. Identify the role of biosphere reserve organization/coordinator/manager in initiating or
responding to these changes.
During the past decade, there has been no material change in land use of the existing biosphere. In fact, the protection of
the habitats, species and visual amenities of the landscape here has been made much more stringent through designations
at European and national level. These include legal instruments under European Union Directives (Water, Birds, and
Habitats) and also under Irish planning legislation. These changes are welcome, as they promote the objectives of our
biosphere. There has been very limited increase in built development, mainly relating to the Sea Scouts den and also the
enhancement of facilities for the two golf clubs.
Access to the biosphere from the city centre and the
rest of the communities along Dublin Bay has been
steadily improving through the construction of the
regional cycling route along the bay (right) the ‘S2S’
(Sutton- to Sandycove). This project arose out of a
proposal developed by several community
organisations around the Bay. It was first publicly
presented to the Dublin City and County Managers at
the conference of a European Union LIFE Project on
community-based environmental planning in north
Dublin, the SEMPA Project in 2002. It was
subsequently debated, designed, re-designed and then
adopted by all three local authorities around the Bay
into their county development plans. The ‘S2S’ project
encountered difficulties over the years, but the
community ensured its success and the final section,
along our biosphere, between the Bull Wall and the
North Bull Island Causeway Road now has approval to
proceed and will be constructed in 2014 with national
Our biosphere is still mainly under the jurisdiction of the local authority, Dublin City Council. The surrounding landscape was
previously governed by Dublin County Council, which has now been split into three distinct local authority councils, two of
which are bounding Dublin Bay, one to the north and one to the south of the biosphere. The objectives of each of these
authorities, and their county development plans, must take into account any impacts on our biosphere, under the Habitats
Directive. This is beneficial to our biosphere’s objectives, as it ensures sustainable development in the region, and
recognition of the conservation and recreation importance of our biosphere for the wider region. All of the local authorities
must now have ‘core strategies’ in their county plans which serve to fulfill the objectives of our new Dublin and Mideast
Regional Planning Guidelines. This is a vastly improved process for forward planning and development control from when
we started out in 1981 with our biosphere project.
In 1981, awareness of biodiversity was low amongst the general public (although the local community was very astute about
the importance of the biosphere, and lobbied to achieve national designations to protect it). Through recent surveys by the
Heritage Council, we find that awareness is increasing in Ireland, although the citizens of Ireland are still unclear as to the
impacts of global issues such as climate change on them directly. Our biosphere is well-positioned to bring these issues
closer to home and to provide a means for researchers to learn more about these changes and, more importantly, to
communicate them to the wider public successfully to change behavior and influence policy-making in Ireland. Our site has
become a valuable resource for recording and measuring change, with its excellent baseline of ecological data, its close
proximity to top universities, with public transport links to the capital city centre and an international airport for visiting
researchers and its internationally recognised important habitats and species. It is an ideal ‘learning laboratory’.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
The population of Ireland has increased and become more multi-cultural, especially in Dublin City. This means we can look
at the biosphere, with its migratory species from all over Europe, North America and Africa, as an ideal project to address
social inclusion and involve newcomers into caring for the Irish landscape. Being part of the UNESCO worldwide biosphere
network is a very important means of social integration, as we adapt to the differences and strengthen the links between
sections of the community in Dublin. We also now have greater efforts to promote our Irish cultural identity, underpinned by
recent legislation such as the national Heritage Act and the Official Languages Act, which mandate local authorities and
state bodies to implement measures to protect and recognize cultural heritage and to use and promote the Irish language.
The biosphere project offers opportunities to further these objectives.
Dublin City Council, as the lead body and landowner of this biosphere, has had to move with these changes and has also
developed approaches which are influential to other Irish local authorities. We exchange information with colleagues
through professional networks and institutes, we have events and communications strategies, and we adapt our
management practices based on new research (some of which we fund) to improve our performance in meeting our
biosphere’s objectives. The most important development has been the Management Plan (2009), which is now guiding our
responses, and which was developed through extensive stakeholder cooperation and ratified as a statutory instrument
under the Planning Act. This shapes what we do and is a valuable resource.
The biosphere boundaries remain unchanged since its establishment in 1981. The primary landowner of the biosphere
remains Dublin City Council. Other landowners include Dublin Port Company, the Royal Dublin Golf Club and some small
land-holdings in private ownership. The biosphere is situated entirely within the administrative area of Dublin City Council;
there are no other local authorities with jurisdiction over it. Some of the waters around the biosphere are administered
through the Department of the Environment. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries have a role in controls and
licensing of these waters. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has a role through the National Parks and
Wildlife Service in monitoring and enforcement of habitat and species protection and also the control of bait digging in the
intertidal zone of the biosphere. NPWS are the scientific and management authority under the EU Habitats and Birds
Directives. This imposes an obligation to ensure that the habitats for which the site has been designated are retained at
‘favourable conservation status’. This includes reporting on habitat status every six years to the EU Commission. The site is
also routinely monitored by conservation ranger. Inland Fisheries Ireland also monitors for some of the fish species in the
Development within the biosphere is strictly controlled under several European and national designations. There are
regional, county and local plans which place controls and provide policies for developments which may impact on the
biosphere but are external to it. The adjoining local authorities must consider impacts of their county developments on the
biosphere under Article 6 of EU Habitats Directive due to the presence of several Natura 2000 sites. They must prepare
and adopt publicly the Appropriate Assessment reports of any development plans.
2.2.1 Updated coordinates (if applicable)
Cardinal points:
Most central point:
Northernmost point:
Southernmost point:
Easternmost point:
Westernmost point:
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
2.2.2 Updated map of the precise location and delimitation of the three zones of the biosphere reserve
The zones of the original North Bull Island Biosphere Reserve as designated in 1981.
The map above indicates the zonation of the biosphere, which is unchanged since its original designation in 1981. It
includes a very small core zone of freshwater marsh, known as the ‘alder marsh’, which was subsequently designated by the
Irish Government as a habitat of Qualifying Interest under the EU Habitats Directive. The rest of the biosphere is a buffer
zone which excludes the golf courses and nearby parks and streams. It is now all subsumed into the designated Special
Area of Conservation under the Habitats Direction for North Dublin Bay SAC. There is no transition zone in relation to the
surrounding landscape. Therefore, the key areas of the biosphere are conservation areas with strict protection as an SAC
and no development or any human occupation of any measurable amount. This map can be viewed on our web pages
about the biosphere:
We are proposing to review and extend all three zones of the current biosphere. The Director of the Eastern River Basin
District and its lead agency, Dublin City Council, commissioned a report by CDM Smith in December 2013 (see Supporting
Documents) outlining a proposed possible strategy and rationale for updating and extending the biosphere reserve from
North Bull Island to a Dublin Bay Biosphere.
2.2.3 Changes in the human population of the biosphere reserve
North Bull Island is split into two electoral divisions. We can use the 2011 Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS) maps in
GIS to isolate the island from the city population, but SAPS data is unavailable for 1981, when the reserve was nominated.
In the 2011 Census there are two SAPS units within the biosphere. Together, these have a population of 455 persons (308
+ 147 from the two maps below the light blue boundary) - inclusive of sections of housing on the mainland (Dollymount
and James Larkin Rd). The biosphere area is very sparsely populated compared to the overall surrounding context. See
below for maps of each of the two SAPS units concerned.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
The re-structuring of the Raheny ward created the new Division of Raheny/St. Assam in the past ten years, so we can’t
compare this area directly with 1981, but we can use records for Clontarf East B, which has the same boundaries. The data
is collected by the Central Statistics Office of Ireland (CSO). The data shows over 10,000 inhabitants of the Electoral Area
which includes North Bull Island, with an 11% increase over the past 30 years. There are slightly more women than men
living in the locality.
Populations of Electoral Divisions of North Bull Island Biosphere (Source: CSO, 2011)
% change
Area in
Clontarf East B
Raheny St
Total population
The population of North Bull Island itself is much smaller than the above figures, with only a few houses, and remains nearly
constant due to prohibition on development in an SAC. However, the population of north Dublin City has declined by 1%
and the population of the surrounding communities of North Central Area has shown greater than average population
decline due to an aging population with small households.
A 2013 Review by the Social Inclusion Unit of Dublin City Council on the aging population of the City highlighted the North
Central constituency, where the Biosphere is located, as in the category of having the highest percentage (30%) of citizens
over the age of 55 in the City.
The distribution of those over the age of 55, across the 5 administrative areas of Dublin City Council (Source: Dublin City
Council, 2013)
Dublin City Council has signed up to
the World Health Organisation’s City
and Community Age Friendly project.
This declares Dublin will work to
become an Age Friendly City. To
achieve this, a number of different
organisations have come together to
agree a strategy on how to improve the
quality of lives of people who are over
55 years of age.
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Recently, the Constituency Commission of Ireland published a report (2012) detailing suggestions for changes to the
constituencies throughout Ireland for parliamentary and European elections as a means to decrease the total number of
national parliamentarians from 166 to 158.The parliamentary constituencies of Ireland have been As of the next election,
Dublin North-Central (which includes Clontarf) will be joined with Dublin North-East to form a new 5-seat constituency called
Dublin Bay North. One of the possible benefits of the new plan in terms of the Bull Island Biosphere is that we will have one
single constituency and 5 parliamentarians that will represent the entire Northside of Dublin Bay from the tip of Howth to the
Alfie Byrne Road in Clontarf, along the entire bayside area north of Dublin Port and city centre (see attached map of
constituencies). This could be helpful to the governance of the Biosphere by uniting political representation at national and
European level in alignment with the natural boundaries of the Biosphere. Even the name, by association, will help to
strengthen the links between local community identity and the Biosphere core area in Dublin Bay. This is the intention of the
Commission, which states in its report : ‘…in Dublin in particular, the extensive use of non-descriptive, cardinal-point
designations for example, West, North-West, North-Central militates against such sense of identity or locality. The
Commission therefore recommends name changes in four Dublin constituencies… It recommends that the new constituency
formed by the merger of Dublin North-Central and Dublin North-East be named Dublin Bay North and that in symmetry,
Dublin South-East be renamed Dublin Bay South.’ The total population of the Dublin Bay North constituency (based on the
2011 Census) will be 146,512. The total population of the Dublin Bay South constituency (based on the 2011 Census) will
be 116,396. The combined total population for a transition zone could therefore be up to 262,908.
The population of the electoral areas which include the biosphere is actively participating in democracy, with some of the
highest voter turnout rates for Dublin City found here in recent referenda and the 2011 national general election. This
suggests a community which is actively participating in democratic structures.
Voter turnout rates for the 2011 national general election to parliament. The biosphere area has the highest turnout rate
(75-80.69%). Source: Dr. Adrian Kavanagh, National University of Ireland at Maynooth.
The national population is expanding and this was in part due to the recent economic boom in Ireland, known as the ‘Celtic
tiger’, which led to net immigration into Ireland for the first time in the history of the Republic and was caused by economic
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
migration. Since the collapse of the construction and banking sectors, followed by loss of economic sovereignty, Ireland has
again experienced severe emigration and unemployment (particularly by the under-30 age group), as well as declines in
average household disposable income and spending due to austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund
and the European Central Bank as part of the ‘bailout plan’ for the State.
For the first time since the founding of the State, there was net emigration to Ireland during the past decade. This has
resulted in a more international community in Dublin City, and increased social diversity. Dublin City has a multi-cultural
population, and many people speak languages other than English or Irish as their first language. As the only Biosphere with
a national capital within its boundaries, North Bull Island can strengthen connections of the international communities with
Ireland and the MAB network.
2.2.4 Update: Conservation Function
The key changes in the conservation function for the existing Biosphere are:
Designation of the biosphere as part of the European Union Natura 2000 Network
The main changes have been the designation of the core area and much of North Bull Island with Natura 2000 site
designations by the NPWS, the statutory body responsible for designations in Ireland under the Birds and Habitats
Directives. The site has both a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This indicates the
importance of 10 different distinct Annex 1 habitats in a continuous assemblage, a quite unique characteristic, and includes
a Priority Annex 1 Habitat (grey dunes). As of 2013, there are Conservation Objectives for the SAC’s (see Supporting
Documents of reports by NPWS). This indicates that consideration of the core area of the biosphere should be expanded
beyond just the alder marsh, which comprises 1-2 Annex 1 habitats, to reflect the site’s assemblage and strengthen the
conservation function of the Biosphere.
North Dublin Bay SAC (site code: 000206) is designated for a range of coastal habitats, including mudflats and salt flats, salt
marsh and sand dunes. The following coastal habitats are included in the qualifying interests for the site (* denotes a priority
Salicornia and other annuals colonising mud and sand (1310)
Atlantic salt meadows (Glauco-Puccinellietalia maritimae) (ASM) (1330)
Mediterranean salt meadows (Juncetaliea maritimi) (MSM) (1410)
Annual vegetation of drift lines (1210)
Embryonic shifting dunes (2110)
Shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria (white dunes) (2120)
Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation (grey dunes) (2130)*
Humid dune slacks (2190)
The first three are salt marsh habitats and the last five are associated with sand dune systems, although all eight of these
habitats are found in close association with each other (McCorry, 2007; Ryle et al., 2009; Delaney et al., 2013).
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
Distribution map of salt marsh habitats with North Dublin Bay SAC (Source: NPWS, 2013)
Distribution map of sand dune habitats within North Dublin Bay SAC (Source: NPWS, 2013)
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
North Bull Island Special Protection Area (SPA) (site code: 004006) is designated for birds and wetlands.
On the 10 May 2010, the Ministerial Order (see attached legal texts) designating 1,944 hectares in Dublin Bay as the North
Bull Island SPA. The objective is to maintain or restore the favourable conservation condition of the bird species listed as
Special Conservation Interests for this SPA:
Branta bernicla hrota [wintering]
Tadorna tadorna [wintering]
Anas crecca [wintering]
Anas acuta [wintering]
Anas clypeata [wintering]
Haematopus ostralegus [wintering]
Pluvialis apricaria [wintering]
Pluvialis squatarola [wintering]
Calidris canutus [wintering]
Calidris alba [wintering]
Calidris alpina [wintering]
Limosa limosa [wintering]
Limosa lapponica [wintering]
Numenius arquata [wintering]
Tringa totanus [wintering]
Biosphere Protected Habitats
fixed-shifting dunes
dune slacks
Salicornia flats
Atlantic salt meadows
humid dune slacks
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
The overall aim of the Habitats Directive is to maintain or restore the favourable conservation status of habitats and species
of community interest. These habitats and species are listed in the Habitats and Birds Directives and Special Areas of
Conservation and Special Protection Areas are designated to afford protection to the most vulnerable of them. These two
designations are collectively known as the Natura 2000 network. The maintenance of habitats and species within Natura
2000 sites at favourable conservation condition will contribute to the overall maintenance of favourable conservation status
of those habitats and species at a national level.
The official site description for the SPA is as follows:
‘This site covers all of the inner part of north Dublin Bay, with the seaward boundary extending
from the Bull Wall lighthouse across to Drumleck Point at Howth Head. The North Bull Island
sand spit is a relatively recent depositional feature, formed as a result of improvements to
Dublin Port during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is almost 5 km long and 1 km wide and runs
parallel to the coast between Clontarf and Sutton. Part of the interior of the island has been
converted to golf courses. A well-developed and dynamic dune system stretches along the
seaward side of the island. Various types of dunes occur, from fixed dune grassland to pioneer
communities on foredunes. Marram Grass (Ammophila arenaria) is dominant on the outer dune
ridges. Species of the fixed dunes include Wild Pansy (Viola tricolor), Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis
vulneraria), Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)
and, in places, the scarce Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) (right).
A feature of the dune system is a large dune slack with a rich flora, usually referred to as the
‘Alder Marsh’ because of the presence of Alder (Alnus glutinosa) trees. The water table is very
near the surface and is only slightly brackish. Sea Rush (Juncus maritimus) is the dominant
species, with Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis)
being frequent. The orchid flora is notably diverse in this area.
Saltmarsh extends along the length of the landward side of the island and provides the main roost site for wintering birds in
Dublin Bay. On the lower marsh, Glasswort (Salicornia europaea), Common Saltmarsh-grass (Puccinellia maritima), Annual
Seablite (Suaeda maritima) and Greater Sea-spurrey (Spergularia media) are the main species. Higher up in the middle
marsh Sea Plantain (Plantago maritima), Sea Aster (Aster tripolium), Sea Arrowgrass (Triglochin maritima) and Thrift
(Armeria maritima) appear. Above the mark of the normal high tide, species such as Common Scurvygrass (Cochlearia
Protected Birds of North Bull
Island Biosphere SPA
Brent goose
black-headed gull
grey plover
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
officinalis) and Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima) are found, while on the extreme upper marsh, Sea Rush and Saltmarsh Rush
(Juncus gerardi) are dominant.
The island shelters two intertidal lagoons which are divided by a solid causeway. These lagoons provide the main feeding
grounds for the wintering waterfowl. The sediments of the lagoons are mainly sands with a small and varying mixture of silt
and clay. Tasselweed (Ruppia maritima) and small amounts of Eelgrass (Zostera spp.) are found in the lagoons. Common
Cord-grass (Spartina anglica) occurs in places. Green algal mats (Enteromorpha spp., Ulva lactuca) are a feature of the flats
during summer. These sediments have a rich macro-invertebrate fauna, with high densities of Lugworm (Arenicola marina)
and Ragworm (Hediste diversicolor). Mussels (Mytilus edulis) occur in places, along with bivalves such as Cerastoderma
edule, Macoma balthica and Scrobicularia plana. The small gastropod Hydrobia ulvae occurs in high densities in places,
while the crustaceans Corophium volutator and Carcinus maenas are common. The sediments on the seaward side of North
Bull Island are mostly sands and support species such as Lugworm and the Sand Mason (Lanice conchilega). The site
includes a substantial area of the shallow marine bay waters.
The site is a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the E.U. Birds Directive, of special conservation interest for the following
species: Light-bellied Brent Goose, Shelduck, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Grey
Plover, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Turnstone and Black-headed
Gull. The site is also of special conservation interest for holding an assemblage of over 20,000 wintering water birds. The
E.U. Birds Directive pays particular attention to wetlands and, as these form part of this SPA, the site and its associated
water birds are of special conservation interest for Wetland & Water birds.
The North Bull Island SPA is of international importance for
waterfowl on the basis that it regularly supports in excess of
20,000 waterfowl. It also qualifies for international importance as
the numbers of three species exceed the international threshold
Light-bellied Brent Goose (1,548), Black-tailed Godwit (367) and
Bartailed Godwit (1,529) (all waterfowl figures given are average
maxima for the five winters 1995/96 to 1999/00). The site is the
top site in the country for both of these species. A further 14
species have populations of national importance Shelduck
(1,259), Teal (953), Pintail (233), Shoveler (141), Oystercatcher
(1,784), Ringed Plover (139), Golden Plover (1,741), Grey Plover (517), Knot (2,623), Sanderling (141), Dunlin (3,926),
Curlew (937), Redshank (1,431) and Turnstone (157). The populations of Pintail and Knot are of particular note as they
comprise more than 10% of the respective national totals. Species such as Grey Heron, Cormorant, Wigeon, Goldeneye,
Red-breasted Merganser and Greenshank are regular in winter in numbers of regional or local importance. Gulls are a
feature of the site during winter, especially Black-headed Gull (2,196). Common Gull (332) and Herring Gull (331) also occur
here. While some of the birds also frequent South Dublin Bay and the River Tolka Estuary for feeding and/or roosting
purposes, the majority remain within the site for much of the winter. The wintering bird populations have been monitored
more or less continuously since the late 1960s and the site is now surveyed each winter as part of the larger Dublin Bay
The North Bull Island SPA is a regular site for passage waders, especially Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank.
These are mostly observed in single figures in autumn but occasionally in spring or winter. The site formerly had an
important colony of Little Tern but breeding has not occurred in recent years. Several pairs of Ringed Plover breed, along
with Shelduck in some years. Breeding passerines include Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Reed Bunting. The island
is a regular wintering site for Short-eared Owl, with up to 5 present in some winters.
The site has five Red Data Book vascular plant species, four rare bryophyte species, and is nationally important for three
insect species. The rare liverwort, Petalophyllum ralfsii, was first recorded from the North Bull Island in 1874 and its
presence here has recently been re-confirmed. This species is of high conservation value as it is listed on Annex II of the
E.U. Habitats Directive. A well-known population of Irish Hare is resident on the island
The main land uses of this site are amenity activities and nature conservation. The North Bull Island is one of the main
recreational beaches in Co. Dublin and is used throughout the year. Two separate Statutory Nature Reserves cover much of
The site is also of special
conservation interest
internationally for holding an
assemblage of over 20,000
wintering waterbirds
North Bull Island UNESCO Biosphere Periodic Review
the island east of the Bull Wall and the surrounding intertidal flats. North Bull Island is also a Wildfowl Sanctuary, a Ramsar
Convention site, a Biogenetic Reserve, a Biosphere Reserve and a Special Area Amenity Order site. Much of the SPA is
also a candidate Special Area of Conservation. The site is used regularly for educational purposes and there is a manned
interpretative centre on the island. The North Bull Island SPA is an excellent example of an estuarine complex and is one of
the top sites in Ireland for wintering waterfowl. It is of international importance on account of both the total number of
waterfowl and the individual populations of Light bellied Brent Goose, Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed Godwit that use it.
Also of significance is the regular presence of several species that are listed on Annex I of the E.U. Birds Directive, notably
Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit, but also Ruff and Short-eared Owl.’
Designation of the National Special Amenity Area at North Bull Island Biosphere
A National Special Amenity Area is a designation for a landscape of national importance for its aesthetic/recreational value.
Planning authorities are empowered (under section 202 of the Planning and Development Act 2000), to make a Special
Amenity Area Order (SAAO) for reasons of outstanding natural beauty or its special recreational value and having regard to
any benefits for nature conservation. The purpose is to preserve/enhance landscape character and to prevent/limit
North Bull Island is one of three National Special Amenity Areas in
Ireland. It was designated by Special Amenity Area Order
(SAAO’s) of the Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1994 and confirmed by
Order (S.I. No. 70/1995) of the Minister for the Environment in
1995. This followed several years of efforts by the local
community, their elected representatives and the Council to make
the case and secure the designation. It was reviewed and updated
by a Management Plan in 2001, and again updated in 2008-2009
with full stakeholder involvement. The