Natural capital: An inventory of Irish lakes

Catherine Dalton


Lakes are important components of our landscape and along with networks of rivers and streams provide a range of important ecosystem services and natural capital. Estimates of lake numbers, particularly small lakes, have generally been under-represented historically as they did not appear on most printed maps. Accurate calculation of lake numbers is necessary in determining realistic estimates of their collective contribution to provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural ecosystem services. A summary of the available lake data is vital to help shape research efforts to determine catchment and lake system contributions to biogeochemical processes, for example, carbon burial, pollution, filtration, and biodiversity. This is particularly important in the context of global climate change. In light of the most recent global inventory of lakes and an increasing recognition of aquatic ecosystem services, this paper summarises the publicly available spatial data on the lake population for the island of Ireland. A range of datasets of variable spatial resolution exists for the Irish ecoregion, which suggest varying lake populations of 360, 908 and 976 lakes greater than 0.1 km2 surface area. Moreover, the most detailed dataset includes 12,205 lakes greater than 0.00001 km2 in the Republic of Ireland (RoI). Additional complexities exist with access to lake data for Northern Ireland (NI). This creates confusion in efforts to valorise lake natural capital for the Irish ecoregion. This summary of the Irish lake population provides context for the selection of lakes for future study and highlights the variable nature of the spatial data.

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