In Ireland, we are never far from at least one…
Community response arrests the spread of Invasive Species in Kilkenny
The spread of the Invasive species Himalayan Balsam has been the target of a community intervention along the River Nore in the Kilkenny City area and its tributary the River Bregagh. Himalayan Balsam is one of Ireland’s most invasive plant species and is considered to be a threat to wildlife ecology along rivers especially their riparian areas, and so is an issue that should be addressed under the Water Framework Directive.
Removing Himalayan balsam is not straightforward and requires a lot of man power, community and river stakeholder intervention. The Tidy Towns Committee, Keep Kilkenny Beautiful and its Biodiversity Committee first targeted Himalayan balsam which had become rampant on the River Bregagh, which is a tributary of the River Nore flowing through Kilkenny City in 2015 .
The River Bregagh is a tributary of the River Nore which rises to the south west of Kilkenny and meanders through the greater southern and western environs of the old city and flows under city walls and Abbeys where it joins the River Nore.
Community volunteers cleared the upper part of the affected areas in the months of June and July in 2015 and 2016 and concentrated on preventing any re-emergence in this area for the remainder of the year. Progress on the first year of the River Bregagh Himalayan balsam campaign would have been greater but for an outbreak of Giant hogweed on the River Nore to which a number of the Bregagh volunteers responded.
A response to combat the Giant hogweed’s threat to public health and the rivers ecology was directed by the local National Parks and Wildlife Officer, and included individuals from the Tidy Towns biodiversity group, the Local Sub Aqua Club, the Kilkenny Anglers and the Local Canoeing Club. The result of this intervention was that 70 or so Giant hogweed plants were treated and their seed heads removed preventing them from going to ground and germinating. The same Giant hogweed response team have been proactive again this year and it is hoped that one invasive species epidemic has been averted and is under control.
In May of this year 2016 the River Bregagh Himalayan balsam campaign resumed and the stakeholder groups that so successfully responded to the previous years outbreak of Giant hogweed spearheaded the completion of the removal of all stands of the invasive species from the River Bregagh tributary. The important participation of the rivers amenity stakeholders in this difficult access phase of treatment also released experienced volunteers to participate in the removal of Himalayan balsam downstream of the River Bregagh confluence.
The Tidy Towns, River Nore Himalayan balsam removal campaign began in May on the popular Lacken and Canal walk areas of the river downstream of the River Bregagh and a strong community response has seen large areas of infestation being cleared and indigenous habitat being restored.
Earlier removal of invasive species on the River Bregagh has already resulted in a return of nesting ducks and foraging swans to the restored grass leavey island and riverbank habitat and a return of a pair of squawking water hens to what had previously become an impenetrable forest of Balsam. The intervention and participation of Tidy Towns cross community volunteers and river amenity stakeholders in biodiversity advocacy projects is heralding a new dawn in river conservation on the River Nore and its tributaries in Kilkenny. The group have been in contact and were recently visited by Fran Igoe, the WFD Southern Regional Coordinator from the Local Authorities Waters and Communities Office who offered advice and support for the work.
Pat Boyd, Keep Kilkenny Beautiful