Largest lake in British Isles has lost three quarters of winter water birds
Northern Ireland’s Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Britain and Ireland, has lost more than three quarters of its overwintering water birds, say researchers at Queen’s University Belfast. (From Wildlife Extra.com)
The study, by Quercus, Northern Ireland’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, found the number of diving ducks migrating to the lake for the winter months has dropped from 100,000 to less than 21,000 in the space of a decade.
The research, published in the journal Freshwater Biology, found the ecosystem of the lake has dramatically changed since 2000/01 leading to a huge decline in the numbers of insects and snails living at the bottom of the lake. This combined with the effects of global climate change dramatically affected the numbers of migratory and overwintering water birds, a feature for which the lake is designated a Special Protection Area.
Dr Irena Tománková, from Quercus at the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s and who led the study, said: “Our research found there was a 66 per cent decline in the numbers of insects and snails in the lake and that this was associated with a decline of algae. As the water birds, which migrate from Northern and Eastern Europe to spend the winter months on the lake, depend on these invertebrates, we partly attribute their decline to the lack of food as well as the effects of climate change.”
Ian Enlander, from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), said: “It is critically important for conservationists and policy makers to understand the reasons behind the dramatic changes that have been recorded at Lough Neagh. This work has been an outstanding contribution to improving our knowledge for this site. It underlines the need for international conservation measures to apply across the entire range of these migratory species.”