H2020 AQUACROSS Case Study 4: Management and impact of Invasive Alien Species in Lough Erne in Ireland

Lough Erne (c) Tim O‘Higgins
Area characterisation: 

Lough Erne (Fermanagh County, Northern Ireland) is made of two parts, Upper Lough Erne and Lower Lough Erne both of which are widened channels of the River Erne, the second largest river in Ireland.  The former is a shallow, naturally eutrophic lake covering an area of 1,552 ha with a complex shoreline containing many small islands and peninsulas. Lower Lough Erne is a larger deeper lake with an area of 15,303 ha and a maximum depth ca. 60m, the two are joined by a section of the Erne river approximately 10km long.


The AQUACROSSCase Study examines the implications of the regulation on Invasive Alien Species (IAS) (i.e. non-native plants and animals harming the local ecosystem) for practical management in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, in the context of existing environmental commitments under EU legislation.


The case study brought together a range of stakeholders from public service and NGOs, both north and south of the Northern Irish/Republic of Ireland border in a series of workshops. Mental models called “Fuzzy Cognitive Maps” of the Erne system were developed based on stakeholder inputs and were used to infer how the social and ecological systems behave. The models predict a likely decline in future water quality related to agricultural activities in the catchment. Models were used to map the impacts of altering lake levels on agricultural production in areas adjacent to the lake.

Potential impacts/benefits: 

Lough Erne sustains multiple competing primary activities each with different requirements from the system in terms of ecosystem services and biophysical abstraction. The Erne Loughs are heavily modified water bodies, and also contain a range of non-native origin with a very long history of introductions.  Balancing the needs of competing uses while also meeting the additional legislative burden of the Invasive Alien Species Directive requires consensus on ecosystem end-points as well as effective cross border cooperation.

Transferability of the result: 

This project is a Case Study under the Horizon 2020 project AQUACROSS, which builds on work undertaken in the previous pillars to develop concepts, practices and tools for better implementation of Ecosystem Based Management. This includes identifying and understanding the linkages between aquatic ecosystems and human well-being and identifying innovative management responses for aquatic ecosystems.

Lessons learned: 

As part of the Horizon 2020 AQUACROSS project, the case study revealed the importance of considering the interconnections between policies. Potential solutions to the problem of Invasive Alien Species in Lough Erne will affect achievement of Water Framework Directive goals, as well as obligations under the regulation on Invasive Alien Species. At the same time, these goals cannot be considered in isolation from the overall driver of the Common Agricultural Policy.


For further information about the project: aquacross@ecologic.eu

Case Study Contact: Tim O’Higgins, MaREI, University College Cork, tim.ohiggins@ucc.ie