A new three-county project will stem the spread of non-native invasive plants throughout the River Avon and its tributaries to protect the future of their native wildlife. According to those involved, nothing on this scale has been tried before in the UK.
To get rid of plants such as Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has joined forces with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust to get rid of plants such as Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed among others that threaten to overwhelm native wildlife in the waters and on the banks of this internationally important river catchment.
Called Source to Sea, the project has received substantial backing from the Environment Agency. Richard Cresswell, Regional Director for the Environment Agency in the south-west is fully supportive of the project, as are Natural England.
The river Avon rises in the Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire and passes through Hampshire at the edge of the New Forest before flowing into the sea at Christchurch in Dorset, which is why an integrated approach across county boundaries is so crucial to its success.
Non-native invasive plants could threaten the survival of water voles and otters, Atlantic salmon, brown trout and lamprey
Sam Bull, Source to Sea project manager at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust says: “The Salisbury Avon and tributaries such as the Nadder and Wylye are magical waterways recognised for their magnificent wildlife by being designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation.
“Non-native invasive plants could threaten the survival of water voles and otters, Atlantic salmon, brown trout and lamprey. If we stand by and do nothing these plants will steadily suffocate the banks”.
“For the project to succeed we will need lots of volunteers to help us pull up the balsam, and we will need the help and support of riverside landowners to either remove the plants or allow access for our volunteers to remove them,” says Sam.
Tackling the problem from source to sea will ensure that the project can look to effectively control the devastation caused by non native species. Nothing on this scale has been tried before
Joanne Gore, Field Officer for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust says: “I am very happy to be working with my colleagues in Wiltshire and Dorset to tackle non native plants on this internationally important river catchment. Tackling the problem from source to sea will ensure that the project can look to effectively control the devastation caused by non native species. Nothing on this scale has been tried before.”
Joanne has already begun working in the Hampshire Avon valley, supporting landowners who have non-native plants on their land. “I have been delighted by the response of landowners on the river catchment. They have been very willing for me to survey their sections of the river catchment and have allowed me to organise contractors and volunteers to help remove non native plants, like balsam, where they have been found.”
Amanda Broom Conservation Officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust, says: “Invasive alien plants are threatening our streams, rivers and their wildlife. We have been working to remove this threat in Dorset and we welcome this opportunity to take the fight to the very east of the county and one of its most iconic rivers.”
Himalayan balsam is an annual plant that grows into bankside thickets, crowding out all native wildlife. Then when the stalks die back in winter it leaves bare river banks that are vulnerable to soil erosion.
The key to its control is to pull the plants up while it is flowering and before it releases it seeds, because if these get into a water system they very quickly spread and can colonise areas downstream.
Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed cannot be hand pulled by the public.
Source to Sea follows on from previous work funded by the Environment Agency, DEFRA, the Forestry Commission, New Forest National Park and Natural England targeting non-native plants on the Avon and other rivers, but never has a collaborative whole catchment programme been attempted before.
If you are a land owner on the River Avon catchment and would like further advice on non-native invasive plants or would like to volunteer for the project to help carry out surveys or practical work this summer then please contact: Sam Bull on (01380) 736066, email firstname.lastname@example.org for Wiltshire.
Joanne Gore on (02380) 424205 email@example.com for Hampshire and Dorset.
Notes for Editors
These plants grow vigorously, spread rapidly and quickly elbow out our native wildflowers which provide food and nectar for our insects. If left unchecked they can devastate large areas causing problems to farmers, graziers, fishermen and everyone who want to enjoy the countryside.
· Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica
It is a perennial, grows up to 3m tall with stiff bamboo-like stems, produces large masses of white flowers in summer, and colonises riverbanks and wasteland. It can spread through tiny pieces of stem or rhizome dispersed in soil, or by water movement. Its roots can tunnel up to seven metres into the earth and penetrate concrete.
· Giant hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum
It is a biennial, grows up to 5m tall and has large head of white flowers from which it produces 30-50,000 viable seeds every year that can remain active for up to 15 years. It colonises wasteland and river banks. Giant hogweed can cause painful blistering on contact with the skin.
· Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera
Notes to editors
It is an annual, grows to 2m and has purplish-pink flower from June-August. When seedpods mature they explode when touched, scattering seed, which are spread by water movement. When the plants die back each year they leave bare soil, which is then susceptible to being washed down river.
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s vision is to create a sustainable future for wildlife and people. We are unique in the county in combining the management of 37 nature reserves and working with local communities to promote sustainable living. The Trust is supported by 18,000 members and over 1,000 volunteers. For more information about the Trust please visit www.wiltshirewildlife.org
For more information contact (01380) 725670 Communication Officers Sue Litherland, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Saira Brown, email email@example.com
Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 25,000 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.
About Dorset Wildlife Trust www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk
Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life
For more information please contact Amanda Broom at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01202 659485.
Himalayan balsam S WILLIAMS DORSET WILDLIFE TRUST