Irish Natural Capital Accounting for Sustainable Environments (INCASE Project)

Irish Natural Capital Accounting for Sustainable Environments (INCASE) is an EPA-funded research project. It kicked off in March 2019 and will run until 2023.

INCASE is the first Irish project to develop natural capital accounts for different sites in Ireland.​

The project team will prepare accounts for four catchments across Ireland using the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA) Central Framework and SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounts guidelines. 

​Accounts for the four catchments will map the stocks and flows of ecosystem and geosystem services, highlight challenges, knowledge and data gaps, and recommend a framework to operationalise Natural Capital Accounting in Ireland.

Selecting the catchments

To choose the catchments for the project, we knew we wanted consider catchments that capture the flow from ‘mountains to sea’. ​We knew that if we wanted to scale up natural capital accounting nationally, we should choose catchments that already had reliable, nationally-available datasets. ​We wanted to maximise stakeholder engagement and synergies with existing projects so that we could gather as much as possible on the catchments in question. ​Our other considerations included geology, soils, climate, land-use, population, infrastructure and pressures. ​With all that in mind, we held a catchment selection workshop in November 2019 at which we decided on the four catchments listed below.

https://www.incaseproject.com/bride

https://www.incaseproject.com/caragh

https://www.incaseproject.com/dargle

https://www.incaseproject.com/figile

https://www.incaseproject.com/data-sources

You can also find a detailed overview of each catchment in the Appendix to the Feasibility report.

Phase 1 – Methods and Data: 
  • Produce a literature review on natural capital accounting to explore the various methodologies that are in use around the world.
  • Identify available data sources a;ong with data gaps. These data sources will inform the accounts, and contribute to the development of a framework for Natural Capital Accounting in Ireland.
  • Professor Jane Stout ofTrinity College Dublin leads this Work Package.
 
Phase 2 – Ecosystem Accounts:
  • Select four river catchments for study.
  • Collate existing datasets and develop indicators, and use them to generate a range of ecosystem accounts that describe habitat condition, habitat extent, as well as environmental flow accounts that might include water, land use and carbon.
  • Use these case studies to test the strengths and weaknesses of the accounts, and identify the data gaps.
  • Develop a framework to guide the appropriate use of monetary valuation and determine how these values can be integrated with existing economic and environmental policies to inform decision-making. While these accounts do not necessarily require monetary valuation, we will assess the efficacy of monetising the benefits to people that certain ecosystem services provide. 
  • Professor Mary Kelly Quinn of University College Dublin leads this Work Package.

Phase 3 – Economic Analysis:
  • Use an input-output model to assess the impact of policy change on natural capital stocks.
  • Use data visualisations to produce sectoral natural capital management frameworks.
  • Produce a gap analysis of information monitoring systems and policies underpinning them.
  • Conduct economic impact assessments to better understand the trade-offs between policy options.
  • Professor Stephen Kinsella of the University of Limerick and Professor Cathal O’Donoghue of NUI Galway each lead portions of this Work Package.

https://www.incaseproject.com/feed

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1470160X19306934#f0010

UCD Swamp Project

UCD SWAMP aims to investigate the pressures on Irish waters from drained peatlands and develop mitigation measures

“This project is funded under the EPA Research Programme 2014-2020. The EPA Research Programme is a Government of Ireland initiative funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.”

The primary objective of SWAMP is to develop an interdisciplinary approach to quantify the pressures on waters arising from drained/extracted peatlands and develop appropriate regulatory measures, sustainable land use management and innovative technologies to ensure the status of water bodies is protected, maintained or improved in line with the requirements of national and international environmental standards. The key objectives of the project are as follows:


• To improve our understanding of the hydrology, hydrogeology, water balances and nutrient exports from drained and extracted peatlands.


• To investigate the impacts and pressures on water quality (chemistry, aquatic biota and hydromorphology) arising from the drainage and mining of peatlands by identifying contaminants pressure zones and assessing the significance and extent of these environmental impacts vis-à-vis the Water Framework Directive and Flood Directive targets.


• To evaluate environmental protection measures in order to develop best practices guidelines by appraising and developing a) robust water purification methods and b) sustainable land-use management practices including restoration/rewetting and after-use of cutaway/cutover bogs.

https://www.ucd.ie/swamp/

DROPLET (EPA Water Related Research Database): Excel Export

Note: DROPLET data has not been updated recently in light of the on-going EPA redevelopment works carried out on the database

Includes title of research project, principal investigator, institution/University, funding entity, project stat/end dates, duration of research, keywords and project abstract.

While incomplete, it is a useful starting point for anyone interested in Irish water research

Who is Funding Water Quality Research in Ireland?

This list comes with a major caveat, in that it is manually extracted from the EPAs DROPLET database which is not always reliable due to its ‘in redevelopment’ status and it is not up-to-date at the moment (estimate it is approx two years out of date in some areas)

But you can view a list of the organisations who have submitted projects in the list below:

If you are aware of a missing project, or a funder that is not on the list, please let us know.

FLARES – Fire, Land and Atmospheric Remote sensing of Emissions

Fires, Land and Atmospheric Remote Sensing of EmissionS (FLARES) aims to develop systematic approaches to the acquisition and collation of a range of data on agricultural and uncontrolled wildland burning burn events from satellite datasets.

These will be validated by in situ observations, and measurement of relevant emission factors for Irish wildfires, with the objective of improving the accuracy and reducing uncertainty in the quantification of annual greenhouse gas and particulate emissions.

The work builds on previous EPA-funded work to characterise upland habitats from satellite imagery, thus enabling the type of vegetation burned to be identified, and biomass lost to be calculated. The reliability of existing satellite and ground datasets will be evaluated, and proposals made for future operational air quality monitoring by drawing on the inter-disciplinary approaches of the Earth Observation and Atmospheric Chemistry expertise within the consortium.

Taxonomy and Phylogeography of Irish Arctic Char

Project AttributeProject Details
Project TitleTaxonomy and Phylogeography of Irish Arctic Char
EPA Project Code2017-W-MS-29
Lead OrganisationQueen’s University Belfast (QUB)
CoordinatorPaulo Prodohl
EPA Research 2014 – 2020 Theme(s)Water: Theme 2: Ecosystem Services and Sustainability
EPA Research Pillars
Project Start and End DatesStart: 26/03/2018
End (if applicable): 26/03/2021
Revised End Date (if applicable): 26/07/2021
EPA Project TypeMedium Scale Project
EPA Award TypeSTRIVE – Project Based Awards
Current Project StatusGrant Awarded
Total Funding Amount141938.50
Project Abstract/Description
EPA Scientific OfficerCeciliaHegarty

Innovative monitoring to prioritise contaminants of emerging concern for Ireland

Project AttributeProject Details
Project TitleInnovative monitoring to prioritise contaminants of emerging concern for Ireland
EPA Project Code2017-W-MS-31
Lead OrganisationDublin City University (DCU)
CoordinatorBlánaid White
EPA Research 2014 – 2020 Theme(s)Water: Theme 1: Safe Water
EPA Research Pillars
Project Start and End DatesStart: 05/03/2018
End (if applicable): 05/03/2021
Revised End Date (if applicable):
EPA Project TypeMedium Scale Project
EPA Award TypeSTRIVE – Project Based Awards
Current Project StatusGrant Awarded
Total Funding Amount349891.64
Project Abstract/Description
EPA Scientific OfficerCeciliaHegarty

Detection of Environmental Sources of Infectious diseases in Groundwater Networks

Project AttributeProject Details
Project TitleDetection of Environmental Sources of Infectious diseases in Groundwater Networks
EPA Project Code2018-W-DS-31
Lead OrganisationUniversity College Cork (UCC)
CoordinatorJean O’Dwyer
EPA Research 2014 – 2020 Theme(s)Water: Theme 1: Safe Water
EPA Research Pillars
Project Start and End DatesStart: 01/03/2019
End (if applicable): 29/02/2020
Revised End Date (if applicable): 31/05/2021
EPA Project TypeDesk Study
EPA Award TypeSTRIVE – Project Based Awards
Current Project StatusGrant Awarded
Total Funding Amount99937.37
Project Abstract/DescriptionThe aim of the DESIGN project is to identify the state of the art and best practice in the effective (high sensitivity, high specificity) detection and identification of pathogen (VTEC and Cryptosporidium) sources and assess what methods can be used to understand the contamination pathways of waterborne infectious diseases. Building on existing research from project partners on groundwater source susceptibility, a stochastic QMRA and Environmental Fate Model will be created for (i) the relative risk of the contamination of private wells with VTEC (using a newly derived pathogenicity ratio) and (ii) the seasonal distribution of likely VTEC contamination. Furthermore, a preliminary sampling regime will be developed to explicitly assess the presence of Cryptosporidium in Irish groundwater and identify sources and transport mechanisms; one of the first studies of its kind. DESIGN has a stakeholder focus, and aims to create non-technical research summaries to improve communication with policy makers, local authorities and the general public. Through the utilisation of past and ongoing complimentary research and the expertise of project partners, this frontier research represents added value for money and will provide a stepping stone towards the development of bespoke groundwater management strategies to move towards a Healthy Ireland. The following outputs are expected from DESIGN, at a minimum: – 1 Final Report for dissemination on the EPA website – 3 peer reviewed research papers, 1 peer-reviewed review paper. – Non-technical summaries are a specified outcome of the DESIGN project in order to allow for impactful stakeholder interaction – A strong social media presence, and increased exposure through the utilisation of ‘The Earth Story’; a hugely popular (~1 million followers), award winning blog which is ran by Jean O’Dwyer (PI). – Research capacity building is a direct outcome of the DESIGN project by create a symbiosis between the Environmental Institute (ERI), UCC, the Environmental Sustainability and Health Institute (ESHI), DIT and the Department of Microbiology, NUIG. – Oral and poster presentations at national and international meetings and conferences. – Project webpage, media publicity, online blogs – Calibrated predictive multivariate statistical and empirical base models for real-time and future sampling frame inclusion. – Novel incidence ratio of VTEC to non-VTEC derived from Irish private water wells.
EPA Scientific OfficerRachelClarke

Use of constructed wetlands for treating mine waste leachates – predicting longevity and management implications

Project AttributeProject Details
Project TitleUse of constructed wetlands for treating mine waste leachates – predicting longevity and management implications
EPA Project Code2018-W-DS-32
Lead OrganisationUniversity of Limerick (UL)
CoordinatorRonan Courtney
EPA Research 2014 – 2020 Theme(s)Water: Theme 3: Innovative Water Technologies
EPA Research Pillars
Project Start and End DatesStart: 01/03/2019
End (if applicable): 29/02/2020
Revised End Date (if applicable): 29/08/2020
EPA Project TypeDesk Study
EPA Award TypeSTRIVE – Project Based Awards
Current Project StatusGrant Awarded
Total Funding Amount70093.80
Project Abstract/DescriptionConstructed wetlands (CW) are increasingly employed for leachate treatment as part of closure planning for mine sites; however their life expectancy and longevity of performance is relatively unknown and no long-term studies have been carried out in Ireland. This proposed study will develop an international database on the use of CW systems treating mine wastes with the objective of identifying key operating parameters and longevity of such systems. Through sampling and analysis of established CW systems at Boliden Tara Pb/Zn mine and Rusal Aughinish alumina processing plant, a series of soil saturation index studies will contribute to our understanding of the removal mechanisms for contaminants of concern. Additionally the influence of leachate characteristics (e.g. pH, suspended solids, predominance of metal types) on removal efficiencies will be investigated. Understanding the capacity of CW systems to treat these complex metal mixtures will contribute to assessing their expected lifespan and the requirements for intervention and management post-closure. This project directly relates to the current EPA research strategy, in particular its requirement to mitigate the negative environmental, social and health impacts of the raw materials sector. This project will produce a report and database (placed in the EPA SAFER database) of key wetland process parameters and operational mechanisms, a final project report, three peer reviewed publications and a conference presentation. In addition, a post-project dissemination workshop will take place involving interested parties from bodies such as the EPA, BRAVO – Critical Raw Materials, and the research community. The project will also enable research capacity building where outputs are expected to contribute to proposal submission for upscaling and translating into demonstration pilots with industry partners, e.g. ERA-MIN submission.
EPA Scientific OfficerLisaJohnson

GRACE Monitoring of Groundwater over Ireland

Project AttributeProject Details
Project TitleGRACE Monitoring of Groundwater over Ireland
EPA Project Code2018-W-DS-33
Lead OrganisationNational University of Ireland Galway (NUIG)
CoordinatorAaron Golden
EPA Research 2014 – 2020 Theme(s)Water: Theme 4: Understanding, Managing and Conserving our Water Resources
EPA Research Pillars
Project Start and End DatesStart: 01/02/2019
End (if applicable): 31/01/2020
Revised End Date (if applicable): 01/07/2020
EPA Project TypeDesk Study
EPA Award TypeSTRIVE – Project Based Awards
Current Project StatusGrant Awarded
Total Funding Amount87648.60
Project Abstract/DescriptionThe Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment-Follow On (GRACE-FO) mission utilise a pair of co-orbiting spacecraft whose variation in position between them as they track the same orbit meridian allows researchers to map gravitational anomalies on the Earth’s surface. Over land, once corrected for geological and atmospheric effects, the dominant anomaly signature is from variations in terrestrial ground water bodies, and the GRACE missions have been incredibly successful in characterising changes in large/continental scale aquifers. Application to more local aquifer bodies are limited by GRACE spatial resolution, roughly 1 square degree at the equator. Given sufficiently sampled ground well levels within GRACE resolution scale, combined with local climatic and soil data, mapping of ground water storage changes at 10s of km spatial scale have been achieved, using machine learning techniques. The GRAIL project proposes to assess the feasibility of such an approach for the island of Ireland, using GRACE data products and similar climatic/soil/ground water level information provided by existing and on-going EPA/GSI programmes. GRAIL will yield the following expected outputs: – a report documenting from the EPA/GSI perspective the feasibility of downscaling GRACE data to map ground water changes in an Irish context – a report detailing the completed software infrastructure, the basis for its operation, the data utilized, ways and means of interpreting results – a report containing downscaled GRACE derived ground water storage variations sampled at a monthly cadence between 2002-2010 – a web resource documenting same – one peer-reviewed manuscript documenting the GRAIL project in the context of downscaling GRACE data products to infer ground water storage changes across Ireland between 2002-2010 – one peer-reviewed manuscript documenting the machine learning methodologies and software stack utilized to implement a GRACE downscaling project to a regional geographical context – one peer-review conference abstract contribution to the 2019 Fall AGU Meeting detailing the GRAIL project – a data archive hosting both monthly maps (in GeoTIFF) and predicted/measured ground water levels (in JSON) format, for inclusion in existing EPA/GSI online repositories – a github site hosting the first stable release of the GRAIL software stack, available for ‘turn-key’ installation on a range of computing platforms
EPA Scientific OfficerLisaJohnson