New Turloughs found in County Monaghan

Wooded Turlough

During the course of the 2011 survey of wetlands in County Monaghan the survey team from Wetland Surveys Ireland located a total of 10 new turloughs in the county, most in the south of the County around Carrickmacross. 

Turloughs are seasonal lakes that occupy basins or depressions in limestone areas, and where water levels fluctuate markedly during the year. They are virtually unique to Ireland and their greatest concentration is in counties Clare, Galway and Roscommon. The general pattern is to flood in winter and dry out in summer, but there may be other sporadic rises in response to periods with high rainfall levels. Turloughs normally fill through underground passages and sinkholes in the limestone, but some also have inflowing rivers or streams. Some turlough basins retain standing water in channels, pools or small lakes when flooding subsides. All areas within the normal limit of flooding are considered as part of the turlough habitat. The presence of the distinctive dark moss, Cinclidotus fontinaloides, on stone walls or rocks can help to establish this level.

Soils of turlough basins can include marls, peat, clays or loams. Large boulders or exposures of bedrock may also be present. This is a priority habitat under the EU Habitats Directive. Nutrient enrichment and inappropriate grazing regimes are the main threats to turlough habitats in Ireland.

Prior to the County Monaghan Wetland Survey 2011 only one turlough site was definitively recognised in county Monaghan, namely Moylan Lough located 5 km north of Carrickmacross (Barron 2006; Foss & Crushell 2007).

mn turlough shirley

Sheehy-Skeffington et al. report on Irish Turloughs (2006) reported 6 possible turlough sites in Monaghan. However, the exact location of these was unclear and data on their extent and the habitats and species present on the sites was totally lacking.

The 2011 County Monaghan Wetland Survey targeted a number of wetland areas in the Carrickmacross area and in particular in and around the Lough Fea / Shirley Estate to try and locate these turlough sites.

Thanks to the information of local historian Larry McDermot the 2011 survey detailed information on ten turlough sites which conform to the EU Priority Habitat type (3180) Turloughs and to our knowledge have not been reported before.

All of these sites have been rated as County conservation value or above, with four of the turloughs deemed to be of International importance and two of National importance due to their size, quality and geographic location. These sites represent a significant biodiversity asset for county Monaghan and should be afforded the highest level of protection.

© Peter Foss 2012