Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Booterstown Wildlife Preserve

Dublin City, like any city, can be a grimy, loud, stinky, mess. Human settlements so often destroy the quiet, clean peace of the natural systems in favor of our own little conveniences and necessities like buildings and roads.

But Nature herself has her share of grimy, loud, and stinky ecosystems that are vital habitat for many species of plants and animals. In one such place, the Irish conservation board An Taisce has taken control of a rare coastal fresh-and-saltwater wetland to preserve it for the unique species living there.

It all starts at the Booterstown DART station in South County Dublin. Booterstown is a small neighborhood between the larger Merrion area to the north and Blackrock to the south. 

Booterstown Train Station Dublin, Ireland
Booterstown Train Station

On the above embedded map, the marsh extends southeast from the train station along the tracks for (maybe) a half-mile. The marsh originally formed when the railway was built here in the 19th century to connect Dublin with nearby Dun Laoghaire. The railway was built on reclaimed land built with topsoil and sediment. When the railway engineers built up the railbed, water at high tide was still flooding this area. 

They built a water control system to keep this area dry. When it inevitably failed in the 20th century, saltwater began mixing with the fresh water springs that flow into the sea here. This created the unique salt marsh habitat right in the middle of the city.

An Taisce noticed that rare species of salt and freshwater tolerant plants and animals were establishing themselves here. Since the 1970s it has been run and protected by An Taisce.

I did some exploratory poking around to see it for myself. Much of the preserve is (understandably) not easily accessible to pedestrian meddlers like me. The best access that I found was on the northwest side of the park, just east of the Booterstown train station.

Booterstown Marsh, Howth Head in the Background Dublin, Ireland
Booterstown Marsh, Howth Head in the Background

It is difficult to capture with the camera, but I have been there when the tide is high, low, flowing, and ebbing. A drain on the lower end of the park allows seawater to enter or drain from the park without the raised railbed interfering. I don't know if this pipe allows fish to pass through, but there are a number of unidentified fish of decent size in the water here when the tide is in.

The marsh is also home to many species of freshwater and saltwater birds, some of which have very specific habitat needs on migration routes.

Beautiful Salty Mud Booterstown Marsh Dublin, Ireland
Beautiful Salty Mud

Well done, An Taisce, for recognizing the need to protect such an unattractive piece of habitat. The birds, fish, and I thank you!

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