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Fabio Delle Grazie

PhD Researcher
Dept. of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering


Ecosystem services provided by groundwater dependent wetlands in karst areas.

Keywords: Ecosystem services; wetlands; flood risk; biodiversity conservation; soil greenhouse gas emissions; geostatistics; spatial modelling; nutrients; biogeochemistry; ecohydrological modelling; InVEST model; ECOSSE model.


Turloughs are topographic depressions in karst, which are intermittently flooded on an annual cycle via groundwater sources and have substrate and/or ecological communities characteristic of wetlands. Turloughs are designated a Priority Habitat in Annex 1 of the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) as well as GWDTEs under the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Hydrology is the primary driver of these unique ecosystems and so a rigorous understanding of the flooding regime is required in order to assess their conservation and future sustainability.

This research aims to identify and quantify the ecosystem services associated with turloughs, particularly in relation to the need for habitat conservation in the face of external pressures associated with agriculture, road drainage schemes, water supply and wastewater disposal. Research will focus primarily on quantifying the ecosystem functions responsible for producing terrestrial hydrologic and climatic services, as well as intrinsic biodiversity services, and use this context to lay out a blueprint for a more detailed ecosystem service assessment.

These services will be quantified in appropriate units (biophysical or otherwise), based on actual or potential sustainable use levels. Available data and field studies will be used to assess the hydrological conditions necessary to sustain the biodiversity of vegetation as well as to better understand the connections between hydrology and biogeochemical cycles. The benefits of the turlough services will then be analysed and quantified in appropriate units (ecological, socio-cultural and economic indicators) as well as monetary values. This will be done using the inVEST software. InVEST includes models for quantifying, mapping, and valuing the benefits provided by terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems.

Modelling soil carbon with InVEST

Soil sampling by cores and analysis will also be carried out to estimate carbon sequestration and emissions. Subsequent modelling (e.g. ECOSSE) will then be used to predict the impacts of changes in land use, hydrological regime and climate change on greenhouse gas emissions from organic soil.

The research is conducted within the framework of the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (ICRAG). It is funded under the SFI Research Centres Programme and is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Union.


Project Supervisor: Prof. Laurence Gill & Dr Owen Naughton