Catchment News

Dublin Bay – A UNESCO Biosphere

On June 24th 2015, the designation of Dublin Bay Biosphere was announced. Biospheres are internationally recognised for their biological diversity yet also actively manage to promote a balanced relationship between people and nature. The designation is awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) but managed in partnership by communities, NGOs and local and national governments. There is a global network of 651 Biospheres in 120 countries.

The Dublin City branch of Comhairle na nÓg made a video in Summer 2016 explaining about Dublin Bay Biosphere in their own words:

In 1981, UNESCO designated North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. There have subsequently been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within them. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere has now been expanded to cover Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300 km2. Over 300,000 people live within this area.

All Biospheres have three main goals:

  1. Conservation: promoting the conservation of landscapes, habitats, wildlife and cultural values
  2. Learning: supporting education and research, for a better understanding of nature and global issues
  3. Development: fostering a sustainable economy and society for people living and working in the area

Dublin Bay Biosphere contains three different management zones.

The core zone comprises protected areas which are managed for the conservation of landscapes and biodiversity. It includes Baldoyle Bay, Ireland’s Eye, Howth Head, North Bull Island, the Tolka Estuary and Dalkey Island and covers 50 km2.

The surrounding or adjoining buffer zone is managed to support the core zone and research, monitoring, training, education and other environmentally sustainable activities are encouraged here. It comprises 82 km2 of public and private green spaces such as parks, greenbelts and golf courses.

The transition zone is the outer zone, where sustainable social and economic development is strongly promoted. It covers 173 km2 and includes residential communities, harbours, ports and industrial and commercial areas.

Dublin Bay is subject to an existing comprehensive legislative and policy planning framework implemented by all levels of government. The Biosphere designation brings no new regulations; its aims are achieved by people working together. The Biosphere is managed by the Dublin Bay Biosphere Partnership, which includes Dublin City Council, Dublin Port Company, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council and the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This partnership works with community groups, NGOs, local businesses and schools. A Conservation Programme, a Business Development Plan for sustainable tourism and recreation and a Research and Education Strategy, including a programme of events, will be developed for Dublin Bay Biosphere.

Learn more:

For further information, please visit our website or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Article by Jenni Roche, Coordinator, Dublin Bay Biosphere.

Dublin Bay Biosphere Zoning Map
Dublin Bay Biosphere Zoning Map

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures to protect and restore our waters.