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Research Project

The potential impacts of extreme climate events on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in Ireland 

About Extremes

The overall aim of Extremes is to identify the potential impacts of extreme climate events on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in Ireland and inform future research needs in this regard. Pressures on on ecosystems and biodiversity in terms of pollution and habitat fragmentation from a range of land-use and other anthropogenic drivers including extreme climate events are contributing to an unprecedented global decline in biodiversity across ecosystems.

Climate change brings a suite of additional pressures to the existing multi-stressor environment that have the potential to alter ecosystems at every level of functioning and this will further challenge efforts to stem biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and demand a rethink of how we address conservation goals and management of protected habitats and species. Disturbances to ecosystems by climate change can be described in terms of a press (long term) and pulse (extreme events) framework. Extreme events are defined as low frequency (often noted as events that fall outside the 5th–95th percentile of the historical range of variability), intense events that rarely occur at a given location. Such events linked to anthropogenic climate change include heat waves, forest and peatland fires, snowstorms, severe frosts, drought, intense precipitation, inland and coastal flooding and storm surges.

In Ireland, climate change is expected to contribute to increased mean annual temperatures, heavy rainfall events and more intense storms and by the middle of this century, summer heatwaves are expected to occur more frequently and precipitation is expected to become more variable, with substantial projected increases in the occurrence of both dry periods and heavy precipitation events. A strong evidence base of the potential impacts of climate change on various components of ecosystems from species and communities to ecological processes is now beginning to emerge andExtremeswill review and synthesise this literature to explore the likely range and nature of extreme climate events of relevance to SACs and SPAs in Ireland. In this context, the primary objective of Extremes is to assess the vulnerability and risk posed by climatic extremes to these SACs and SPAs.

Project Team

Professor Mary Kelly-Quinn

Dr. Mary Kelly Quinn


Professor Mary Kelly-Quinn is an applied freshwater ecologist in the School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin (UCD) and a member of the UCD Earth Institute. Her current research is primarily based on streams and rivers, but she has undertaken projects on lakes, ponds, canals, hyporheic fauna and riparian zones. The focus of her research is on assessment of land-use and other anthropogenic activities on the physical, hydrochemical and ecological quality of surface waters with particular reference in recent years to multiple stressors and climate change. She is particularly interested in the small stream network and the level of intervention needed to not only protect water quality and biodiversity in headwaters but also to improve water quality further downstream. She has also led projects and published on ecosystem services and engaged in research on natural capital accounting.

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Assistant Professor Elke Eichelmann

Dr. Elke Eichelmann

Assistant Professor in the School of Biology and Environmental Science

Dr. Eichelmann's current research interests focus on the effects of disturbances on biosphere – atmosphere exchange of trace gases and energy. Her research is driven by the overarching vision of mitigating the effects of climate change by managing ecosystems for greenhouse gas and climate benefits. Dr. Eichelmann obtained a Diploma in Physics (Dipl. Phys., MSc equivalent) from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and a PhD in Land Resource Science from the University of Guelph, Canada, with their PhD project focused on measuring the CO2, H2O, and energy fluxes of mature switchgrass, a bioenergy feedstock crop. Before joining UCD, Dr. Eichelmann worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management at the University of California Berkeley investigating the carbon and water budgets of restored wetlands in the Sacramento/San Joaquin river delta specifically in the context of the California cap and trade scheme for carbon emissions.

Md Salauddin

Dr. Md Salauddin

Assistant Professor of Hydraulic Engineering

Dr Md Salauddin is an Assistant Professor of Hydraulic Engineering in the UCD School of Civil Engineering and a member of the UCD Dooge Centre for Water Resources Research. His research interests include the application of nature-based solutions in a changing climate, climate change and extremes, climate resilience of critical coastal infrastructures, storm surge and wave impacts on coastal protections, wave structure interactions at sea defences, extreme coastal hazards (impact pressures, scouring, overtopping, hydraulic stability of coastal structures), offshore renewable energy ( wave, wind, and tidal energy), and water quality.

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Dr. John O'Sullivan

Associate Professor

Dr. O'Sullivan is Deputy Head of UCD Civil Engineering, Director of the UCD Dooge Centre for Water Resources Research and a Fellow of the UCD Earth Institute. He is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin (BA, BAI, 1993), the Queen's University of Belfast (MSc, 1994) and the University of Ulster (PhD, 1999). Dr. O’Sullivan has over 25 years teaching and research experience in water resources engineering. His primary research experience centres on hydrology, hydraulics, and hydrodynamic modelling and he has been a Principle Investigator on many national and European projects in these areas. He has published over 65 international peer reviewed journal papers and in excess of 60 conference papers. He is an Editor for the International Water Association (IWA) Journal of Water Supply and has served as External Examiner for Research Masters and PhD Theses both nationally and internationally. He has also served on a wide range of Engineers Ireland Professional Accreditation Panels.

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Profile photo of Dr. Ashenafi Yohannes Battamo

Dr. Ashenafi Yohannes Battamo

Post Doc Research Fellow Lvl I

Dr. Ashenafi Yohannes Battamo is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCD, focusing on environment, climate change, and sustainable natural resources management. He graduated from Addis Ababa University (Bachelor, 2006 and Master, 2011) and Tianjin University (PhD, 2022). Dr. Battamo has research experience in environmental science, environmental engineering, and data analytics. His research work mainly concentrates on water and climate, hydro-climatic extremes, water resources management, environmental impact assessment, impacts of climate change on ecosystems, risk and vulnerability analyses, and system resilience. Dr. Battamo has published eight peer-reviewed journal papers and presented at several international conferences. He has received multiple invitations to serve as a reviewer for the Journal of Environmental Management (JEMA) and Environmental Research (ER).

Profile photo of Mr. Nadeem Naber

Mr. Nadeem Naber

Research Assistant

Nadeem Naber joined was a Research Assistant in the EXTREMES project until November 2023. He is currently studying to obtain a MSc in Ethology from Stockholm University, Sweden, having graduated with a BSc in Zoology from Trinity College, Dublin in 2021. Nadeem’s higher level education centres on zoology and animal behaviour specifically. His research interests include the applied potential of cognitive studies on captive animals and alien invasive species. He maintains a blog analysing current animal behaviour publications ((opens in a new window)https://boaandfossa.wixsite.com/boa-and-fossa-blog). He has obtained research experience with the Snook (Drosophila evolutionary ecology) and Baird (insect functional morphology) Labs at Stockholm University. He also has terrestrial (dry rainforest) and marine (tropical reef) conservation experience, and SCUBA diving experience, obtained with Operation Wallacea.

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University College Dublin, Newstead, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
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