Nature on our doorsteps: The turbulent Dodder

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

The River Dodder is a very important corridor for wildlife. It provides a green link through the urban areas all the way from Bohernabreena in the Dublin Mountains to the sea in Dublin Bay.

The name Dodder originates in the Irish term ‘an dothrach’, meaning a turbulent stream. It rises in the Glenasmole Valley, where four smaller tributaries first drain the peaty mountain slopes. 

Recent heavy rains created a turbulent Dodder at Old Bawn Bridge 1

Recent heavy rains created a turbulent Dodder at Old Bawn Bridge

These then join to form the Dodder on the valley floor. 

The mountains are blanketed in upland boggy habitats. These act like a giant sponge, soaking up rainwater and storing it.

 This water is then released slowly into streams that gently make their way down the steep slopes to the Dodder. 

After particularly heavy rain, however, the high volumes of rainwater are too much for the bogs to hold. 

The water gushes down very quickly, turning the Dodder into a very different river where it hurtles furious floods over the weirs at Old Bawn Bridge and the Balrothery/Firhouse Weir. 

The Dodder at Old Bawn Bridge in peaceful summer calm 1

The Dodder at Old Bawn Bridge in peaceful summer calm

Creatures living in the river and along its riverbanks therefore live in a very precarious habitat, with periods of pleasant calm interrupted by raging waters. 

Many are adapted to these conditions, however, and while some may get washed downstream during such turbulent events, enough will survive to come back upstream again to re-populate these locations.

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