Lower River Shannon

Map of the River Shannon
© Limerick County Council.

The lower River Shannon is protected as a Special Conservation Area. It supports many habitats that are listed on Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive and is of high ecological value and interest. Some of those habitats listed include: Molinia meadows, Atlantic salt meadows, Mediterranean salt meadows, estuaries, tidal mudflats, sand banks, lagoons and alluvial wet woodlands.

Along the banks of the Shannon close to the University of Limerick an area of alluvial woodland occurs. It is dominated by White Willow, although a number of other willow species, alder and sally also occur in the shrub layer of the woodland. Above the alluvial wet woodland are the remains of mixed woodlands. Alder, oak, elm, hawthorn and willows are amongst the species growing on this higher ground.

The River Shannon and River Fergus meet on the Limerick/Clare border and their estuaries join to form the largest estuarine complex in Ireland. Along the tidal channels of the inner areas of the estuaries, the rare Triangular Club-rush, Lesser Bulrush and Summer Snowflake grow alongside more common reed and rush species. Also of particular note is the salt marsh vegetation dominated by Atlantic salt meadow species such Sea Aster, thrift, Sea Plantain, Red Fescue, and the scarce Hard-grass.

Together, the Shannon and Fergus Estuaries support Ireland’s largest wintering waterfowl population. Great Northern Diver, Whooper Swan, Golden Plover, Shelduck, Redwing and Grey Plover are amongst the huge variety of waders that inhabit the area over winter. There is also a large population of gulls, and the protected Peregrine Falcon, chough, and kingfisher.

Due to the large variety of habitats along the Lower River Shannon region, it is not surprising that a number of protected species are found there. Freshwater Pearl Mussel, Atlantic Salmon, Otter, various lamprey species, and Bottle-nosed Dolphin are all supported in the area. This population of Bottle-nosed Dolphins is the only known resident population of the species in Ireland. The rare fish pollan has also been recorded spawning in the Shannon.

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