Insects needed over Lough Neagh. British Isles’ largest lake facing mounting problems

Loung Neagh

Lough Neagh is a lake located in Northern Ireland. This huge reservoir is the drinking water supply for more than 40 percent of the country’s population. country’s population. Unfortunately, experts are sounding the alarm that the reservoir’s ecosystem has collapsed. Although it seems unlikely, the lack of insects may be the cause. It is momentarily unclear why they stopped dancing over the water.

Dancing or clumsy insect tangles over Lough Neagh?

The lake is home to several different species of insects of the fly order, the ochre family (Chironomidae). These small, non-biting insects had the status of nuisance and unwanted guests among local residents and visitors to the lake. They left marks on clothes, car windows, moving along the lake’s several dozen kilometer-long shoreline, and disturbed the people staying there. What was a nuisance for some, others were infused with delight. Environmental activists were enchanted by the mating dances of the insects, which floated above the treetops like subtle ballerinas. Suddenly these artistic performances stopped. It was as if the Lough Neagh orchestra had stopped playing. Chironomidae flies have left the scene.

Insect absence a problem for lake ecosystem

Deklan Coney, one of the eel fishermen, was convinced that something was wrong. The absence of insects over Lough Neagh was a disturbing phenomenon. In previous years, ochreflies regularly appeared over the lake, and the swarms, forming into belts or thick plumes, resembled clouds of smoke.

Last spring, “Lough Neagh flies” did not appear on the lake. To many, it may seem that such a change has pleased residents. For the first time ever, when approaching the Cross of Ardboe monument or its environs, one could not see the insect clouds. Their dancing unexpectedly stopped. The delight of nature advocates has turned into concern.

Will the fish, for which the Northern Ireland lake is the main habitat, survive without ochrefish?

“Lough Neagh flies are nuisance but harmless insects. They are a major source of food for selected species of fish and wild birds, for which this lake is the only habitat in the UK. Lack of food threatens the extinction of these animals, as well as the spread of invasive zebra mussels (also known as Dreissena polymorpha predatory mussels – the variegated crayfish) and the long-term deterioration of the quality of water taken for drinking purposes. It is worth mentioning that each year the lake hosts Europe’s largest wild eel fishery. The absence of chironomids is not only a threat to this event, but to the entire lake ecosystem.

The first effects could already be seen last summer, when the expansion of algae increased, resulting in the depletion of oxygen, essential for aquatic organisms. We wrote more about this in one of our previous publications – Lake Lough Neagh an example of the changes taking place in nature. Although this green-blue blanket of bloom has disappeared from the surface of the lake, blue-green algae are still present in the reservoir. As it turns out, algae are not the only nuisance to the ecosystem. Dense, light-colored foam has recently been observed in the lake’s waterways. It was not until mid-February that the political debate over the management of Lough Neagh began.

Same place, different view

Ciarán Breen is a man for whom Lough Neagh is a second home. He has been working as a wildlife warden since 1986, but has never experienced a sight like this in his career. The sight of nothing. Every winter he counted Lough Neagh’s wild birds with his colleague. There were as many as 50-60,000 diving ducks here. Over the years the numbers have dropped by 80 percent. Breen invariably checks the sites of his former sightings. However, there is nothing to count. It’s not just the ducks that have disappeared. In late November, swans came to Lough Neagh from Iceland, heralding the arrival of winter with their calls. Those clamorous calls have turned into silence.

The future of Lough Neagh

The lake was home to many animals, as well as an important point on the map for residents of surrounding villages and towns. The collapse of the ecosystem has led to the demise of the lake’s central fishing industry. However, the losses could be much higher. Local communities fear that Lough Neagh will succumb to privatization. The Earl of Shaftesbury has not ruled out this possibility. The priority must be to maintain the life of the lake,” Bernadette McAliskey, a former MP from Mid Ulster, told those gathered at a rally in Toome. – If we collectively sustain the life of Lough Neagh, then Lough Neagh will sustain us. As long as we work in harmony, everyone will be able to live here.

Will the lake’s biodiversity be saved? There is no clear answer to this question at the moment, as there may be many factors responsible for the disappearance of the insects. What is certain, however, is that ochreflies have been a very important part of the Lough Neagh ecosystem, and without them it will be difficult to restore the biological balance of the waters.

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