The Fenit Dunes Action Group (DAG) is a subgroup of Fenit Town Hall. DAG was created to promote stewardship of the Fenit Island Tombolo (the sandbar) that connects Fenit Island to the mainland. The Fenit tombolo is a precious natural resource and coastal barrier. It is within a Special Protected Area (SPA) for Wildlife, and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for Natural Habitats. The broader Akeragh, Banna and Barrow Harbour SPA and SAC, which includes the Fenit Island tombolo, is of such significance it has the highest conservation stature within the European Union – designation as a ‘Natura 2000 Site’. Despite the designations, an absence of allocated public funding for protection and conservation, coupled with increasing human and climatic pressures, have resulted in the current vulnerable condition of the tombolo. In response, DAG hopes to raise awareness about the value and vulnerability of the Fenit Island Tombolo and promote local to national level stewardship of this resource. Initial DAG goals are:
1) to assess changes to the tombolo since the early 1800’s and highlight what will likely become of the tombolo with and without intervention;
2) to heighten awareness of the unique environmental and natural resource value of the tombolo (e.g. the ecosystems and biodiversity supported by the tombolo);
3) highlight the socio-economic ramifications of loss of the coastal barrier of Fenit Island tombolo (e.g., loss of the only road access to the island and its community, coastal road & property flooding on the mainland around Barrow Harbour and related business and community implications);
4) begin grassroots stabilization/conservation efforts (e.g., marram grass planting, awareness signage) while larger-scale efforts and support are solicited.
Throughout the Spring DAG volunteers have worked to stabilize some of the most vulnerable parts of the dunes by transplanting marram grass. Volunteers have harvested dune grasses from stable areas and re-planted in vulnerable areas. New volunteers receive training on the tools and techniques of harvesting and re-planting marram grass, and volunteers learn about the unique attributes of marram grass in capturing and binding blowing sand, and how this salt-tolerant sand-trapping grass helps maintain and restore sand dune systems. Sand was used to help backfill a sizeable breach and newly planted marram grass will hopefully stabilize the area. Soft fencing and other protection for vulnerable areas are also being explored by the group.
In addition to marram grass planting, DAG has implemented a signage campaign to raise awareness of the fragility of dune grasses, the unstable unsafe status of the dunes, and encourage everyone to respect and avoid being on the dunes. DAG has also contacted local schools to explore future educational talks, walks and planting events. It’s a real community effort!
DAG is currently in an information gathering phase to better understand how increased climatic pressure from more frequent and extreme weather events and sea level rise, as well as increased human pressures from tramping, camping or driving on the dunes impact the tombolo. Local area knowledge, early mapping from the 1800’s, aerial photographs, satellite and drone footage are tools being used to better understand the changes over-time to the Fenit tombolo. DAG is mindful that weakened areas, whether by man or nature, are more vulnerable to degradation and without intervention we will likely see a continued narrowing of the tombolo, and an increase in the number and severity of breaches or blowouts. Ultimately the integrity of the coastal barrier is at risk.
An exciting element of the information gathering strategy is engagement with the Munster Technical
University (MTU) Kerry Campus via lecturers David McCormick and Lynda Weekes. Stemming from an April site visit tentatively it is envisioned that as many as five first-year student projects may focus on assessing wildlife and biodiversity on the tombolo.
The work of DAG has gained support from national level leaders in dune management, with site visits
and educational walking tours being delivered May 22nd 2021 by:
⎯Dr. Kevin Lynch, NUI Galway a coastal geomorphologist and environmental scientist interested in wind-blown sand transport studies and the physical processes of beach-dune environments. Dr. Lynch uses his knowledge to feed into different levels of coastal decision-making, with a focus on climate change adaptation along our coasts.
⎯ Karin Dubsky, Coastwatch, a marine ecologist working at Trinity College Dublin, an environmental activist and coordinator and co-founder of Coastwatch Europe, an environmental NGO and a member of the European Environmental Bureau.
DAG is extremely grateful for the time, knowledge, and expertise shared by Dr. Lynch and Karin Dubsky for the ‘Fenit Island Tombolo Exploration Event – The dunes, saltmarsh, mudflats, seagrass lawn and what the sea left at the last tidemark!’ . DAG was excited to dovetail the event with a celebration of World Biodiversity Day and the launch of the Coastwatch Sea Grass Campaign.
DAG is also grateful for the invaluable engagement and information sharing by Martha Farrell of the Maharees Conservation Association and Pat Lawlor of the Coastal Communities Alliance. Through strategic partnerships, DAG and coastal communities collectively have a stronger voice from which to advocate for change in political and policy arenas.
To stay updated on DAG activities and events visit: Fenit Town Hall Facebook Page, Fenit Town Hall Website or Email ‘FenitTownHall@gmail.com’
Get Involved! – New DAG members and volunteers are always welcome.