Areas of Action

Raven Point Nature Reserve SAC

Scientific description

The Raven is situated on the south east coast of Ireland, north of Wexford Harbour. The site incorporates a large system of sand dunes comprising a set of coastal habitats, listed in Annex I of Directive 92/43/EEC.

The sandy formation is dominated by a plantation of conifers that includes Pinus nigra, P. radiata, Pseudotsuga menziesii, P. sylvestris, P. contorta, Picea sitchensis and other smaller ones such as Araucaria araucana and Tsuga heterophylla. Pinus nigra is by far the dominant species present. Most of the trees were planted in the early 1930s and 1950s. Hardwood species that were planted or have subsequently self-propagated include Betula pubescens, Salix spp., Acer pseudoplatanus, Fagus sylvatica, Quecus robur, and Ilex aquifolium. In the northern and western part of the plantation, the herbaceous layer is characterized by a community of fern/silva/ivy (Pteridium aquilinum/Rubus fruticosus agg./Hedera helix) with Hyacinthoides non-scripta. In the most exposed eastern part of the forest plantation, there is a field layer in which some herbaceous species that are commonly found in fixed dunes persist, such as Agrostis capillaris, Anthoxanthum odoratum and Carex arenaria.

A dynamic system of sand flats, marshes, lagoons, dunes, and small intradune depressions is present at the southern distal tip of the sand formation. Due to varying degrees of exposure, the southeast experiences cycles of erosion and accretion with little long-term dune formation, while in the more protected southwest, dunes have stabilized and managed to form habitat 2130*, which continues to accumulate. The southern part of the site contains the most developed examples of habitats 1210, 2110, and 2120. Species found in the embryonic dunes include Euphorbia paralias, Y. portlandica, Eryngium maritimum, Cakile maritima, Elymus farctus, and Salsola kali. The low-lying, open formations characteristic of 2130* support a typical dune flora including Festuca rubra, Lotus corniculatus, Galium verum, Viola tricolor subsp. curtisii, Sedum acre, Luzula campestris, Ononis repens, Anthyllis vulneraria, Era praecox and Cladonia spp. Significant erosion has been identified along the northeast side of the ZEC in recent years, which appears to be associated with natural sedimentary cycles. Despite the desiccation associated with coniferous planting, some wet areas remain, almost certainly due to a high water-table, and some of these areas support vegetation typical of types 2190 and 2170, including Pyrola rotundifolia subsp. maritima, Salix repens, Carex nigra, Anagallis tenell), Danthonia decumbens and mosses Pseudoscleropodium purum, Rhytidiadelphus triquetris and Calliergon cuspidatum.

Other aspects of interest:

Invertebrate of marine and intertidal habitats were described on this site. Four types of intertidal biological communities were described: a sand community complex dominated by polychaetes; a complex of estuarine mud communities dominated by polychaetes and crustaceans; a community complex of mixed sediments; and a community complex of fine sand with Spiophanes bombyx. The sheltered intertidal shoreline west of Raven Point supports communities of bivalves and worms (eg, Cerastoderma edule, Arenicola marina). The steeper shorelines northeast of The Raven Point, which are predominantly sandy sediments, support a sparser fauna, but with one notable species, Pseudorchestoidea brito, a beach flea known only from one other location in Ireland.

Several rare and protected plants were recorded in this dune system, including Pyrola rotundifolia, Centaurium pulchellum, and Asparagus officinalis subsp. prostratus, all three protected Flora Protection Order 1999. The dunes at this site support a diverse @invertebrate fauna with important species in the embryonic dunes, white dunes and fixed dunes. Notable species include two rare species such as Nebria complanata and Pristonychus terricola (Order Coleoptera), Epitryptus cowini (Order Diptera), Pherbellia knutsoni (Order Diptera), and Ceuthorrhynchus hirtulus (Order Coleoptera). The presence of Armadillidium cochineal (Order Isopoda) was also recorded in the dunes. The Burrowing Owl toad, a rare and legally protected Red Book species, was introduced to the site in the 1980s and a small population remains associated with artificial ponds. The Raven Point, an integral component of the Wexford Slobs and Harbor complex, has significant bird interests, highlighting its critical importance as the primary nocturnal refuge for the internationally important population of Anser albifrons flavirostris located in Wexford Harbour.