Geologists: Popular Irish tourism hotspot “slowly drowning”

Coastal infrastructureGeologists: Popular Irish tourism hotspot “slowly drowning”
Published 12 March 2015

Geologists have found evidence that Connemara, described by Discover Ireland, a tourism body, as one of the country’s “most iconic destinations,” is slipping under the sea.”It’s certain that the sea has encroached considerably onto the land around Galway Bay since the ice melted…and that the strange, watery landscape is indeed being shaped by a slow drowning”of Connemara, said Jonathan Wilkins, a geologist with the Earth Science Ireland (ESI) group.

A Wales-based geologist has found evidence that Connemara, a popular Irish coastal tourism region, is slipping under the sea.
As the Irish Mirror reports, geologist Jonathon Wilkins first spotted signs that something strange was happening when holidaying himself in the area near Galway Bay.
“Close to the laboratory of NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute, the tide was flooding sinuous channels in a peat bog, not a saltmarsh as I had first supposed, and peat bogs don’t accumulate in salt water,” Wilkins explained.
He found tree stumps which were buried beneath the peat, up to six-and-a-half feet deep.
“The level of the stumps is below the highest tide level, and it has to be assumed that they didn’t grow with their roots in the sea,” he said, “So here is very powerful evident that sea level, to my surprise, is rising in this area, and demonstrably over quite a short time scale.”
Wilkins cites land movement and climate change, adding that the gradual metamorphosis can be difficult and complex to unravel.
With sea levels already rising, the southern portion of Ireland is seeing even more change due to the thicker ice the northern part of the country , which causes “a stronger isostatic rebound,” or a change in elevations of parts of the country itself.
As the ice in the north melts annually, the southern part of the country experiences even greater effects.
“The crust beneath southern Ireland is being levered downwards by this movement, so Belfast, Dublin and Donegal are going up and the southern counties including Galway are going down,” he said,. “As the sea is also rising slowly world-wide due to warming, the picture is less simple than it is drawn here, but it is certain that the sea has encroached considerably onto the land around Galway Bay since the ice melted, and the more recent effect is demonstrated very clearly in these key localities.”
The peat covering does not help matters either, as it contributes to the erosion. Once it is in contact with enough water it floats away, doing little to serve as a barrier against the tides.
Wilkins added that”Erratic boulders are everywhere on the South Connemara shore, but I had not expected that they were mostly surrounded by a blanket bog until it was claimed by the sea, and that the strange, watery landscape is indeed being shaped by a slow drowning.”
Connemara is described by Discover Ireland, a tourism body, as one of the country’s “most iconic destinations.”
— Read more in Jonathan Wilkins, “Granite & Glaciation in South Connemara,” Earth Science, issue 15 (Winter 2014): 19-21

More Stories:

Leave a comment
Register for your own account so you may participate in comment discussion. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to abide by our Comment Guidelines, our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Use. Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief. Names are displayed with all comments. Learn more about Joining our Web Community.