Invasive Species in the News

Listening to Morning Ireland this morning and how Minister Healy Rae has asked for the Army to be called in to tackle the issue of Rhododendron invasion in Kerry, sounds like some apocalyptic film script – but is it?

I met with Dr. Joe Caffrey and Tom Donovan of INVAS Biosecurities recently, ( experts in invasive species control, and learned from them the number of non-native, invasive species currently taking over Ireland is a growing list. They informed me that invasive species were difficult to eradicate and to control them needs a specialist operator. There are literally tens of species of animals and plants that have colonised Ireland successfully from around the world – and they are taking over. They are taking over our waterways, our land and driving out, and killing off, our native species.

Rhododendrons are big plants, well known, and play havoc, especially in the West and South West of the country. The by-roads of Galway, Mayo and Kerry and the scenic areas of Connemara, Leenane and Killarney National Park are lined with Rhododendrons. Another invasive species, Japanese knotweed, can grow at nearly 30cm (1 ft.) a day and to up to 2.5meters (8 feet) and can halt construction sites and even bring down buildings once it gets a foothold. When I worked in Jacobs Engineering at Merrion Gates in South Dublin, each year the light and view through the sea-facing windows were obscured within the first month of growth, as Japanese Knotweed took hold along the railway, yet again.

Invasive water weeds, possibly a throw away from fish tanks, have clogged our waterways and already pose a threat to navigation along the major rivers and lakes and prevent anglers and other water sports enthusiasts enjoying their past times. This not only affects the participants, but also hugely impacts Irish Tourism. These species are costing us millions.

And yes, invasive species do cost millions to control. On Morning Ireland, we learned of the millions of euros the National Parks and Wildlife Service spend annually on invasive species control in Killarney National Park alone. We also learned that each Rhododendron produces millions of dust-like seeds every year. The Irish population of Japanese knotweed exists with just the female plants – there are no males in Ireland, so the plant reproduces through its roots system or vegetatively. Each time a piece of the plant breaks off and lands on the soil it can produce another plant. If an untrained person went into an area of Japanese knotweed with a hedge cutters and cut up the plant into millions of pieces and didn’t effectively collect and destroy these pieces on site, the potential exists for these millions of “plants” to take hold elsewhere.

The lesson is, that if you can’t call in the Army to handle your invasive plant or animal issue, call in an expert who knows what they are doing and ensure you don’t add to the issue of the tide of invasive species swamping the country.