Great start on Colonsay

We welcome our new Conservation officer working with ACT in Argyll, Angharad Ward. Angharad started off her new post with a visit to Colonsay to check out how the rhododendron removal is going there.

An early morning start with the sunrise to make the most of the daylight saw Deb Baker and Angharad aboard a private RIB from Islay sea adventures. The journey itself was a beautiful introduction to the wildlife of the area with views of a white-tailed sea- eagle fishing in the Sound.

Once on the island, the pair found that the contractors ICD Tree Services have made a great start despite the steep inclines and rough terrain and many mature rhododendrons have already been removed on the south section of the site.

This has really opened up the area and the cut vegetation will be left to rot and the stumps sprayed to discourage regrowth. It is essential this treatment is done in the first minutes after felling so that the plant absorbs the herbicide. A second section of the site has been sprayed directly and some of the stands are already starting to lose their leaves. Works will continue this week to cut the rest of the dense stands with further spraying of isolated plants and small patches.

It is hoped that Colonsay will become a Rhododendron free island in the near future, the culmination of many years’ work with the community and farmers on the island.

Carpeting the carpet

Specialist jute matting has been laid on the bottom of Lough Arrow to conserve valuable biodiversity and help local anglers reach the trout for which the lough is famous, without their engines and oars getting tangled in fast-growing dense mats of alien invasive Nuttall’s Waterweed (Elodea nuttallii).

Scientists from CANN partners, IT Sligo, and INVAS Biosecurity who are specialists in the control of alien invasive species, have come together to lay jute matting as a carpet on the bottom of Lough Arrow. This carpet of jute will block the light from the Elodea, but the native carpet of charophytes or stoneworts will be able to grow through its loose weave and flourish to provide feeding and breeding places for the trout and the insects they feed on.

Chara braunii CC Show_ryu – Obra Proprie,
Elodea nuttallii by Christian Fischer, CC 

Elodea nuttalli arrived on Lough Arrow sometime after 2010 and quickly spread in the shallower water where it blocks out light from the delicate and unique charophytes” said Dr Frances Lucy from IT Sligo who leads the CANN team on Lough Arrow

“The weed kills the native freshwater reef of stoneworts which provide food and shelter for wildlife. There is also a very strong chance that weed caught in boat engines or equipment can transfer to other water bodies, Now the CANN project funded by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, through the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) has allowed us to actively manage this invasive weed and help prevent it spreading” she continued

A trial was carried out on the lough two years ago and was so successful that a full 80m length mat, 20m wide has now been laid extending out from the main launch area to the deep clear Elodea-free fishing grounds. The weed clear path is marked with navigation markers to make it easy for the anglers to use.

Anglers have also been provided with sanitation stations to help them clean their equipment and are being asked to follow the Elodea Code

  • Check equipment, clothing and footwear
  • Clean everything thoroughly, using hot water where possible
  • Disinfect all equipment using Virkon ® Aquatic
  • Dry everything as some alien species can live for two weeks in damp conditions
  • Follow the buoys when launching and landing

Bog on the Bog

Just a week after a major clean up, an entire toilet was dumped at Curran Bog near Magherafelt, highlighting the ongoing problem with waste crime in Northern Ireland. The CANN team cleaning the site nicknamed this “the bog in the bog”. Curran Bog is one of the most important raised bogs in the UK and is an important site for the large heath butterfly.

rubbish dumped at Curran Bog

“Among the usual threats to Curran Bog, such as drainage and scrub invasion, the owners told us of years of fly-tipping, particularly along the Clooney Road boundary,” said Dr Trish Fox, from Ulster Wildlife.

“Curran Gun Club, which leases part of the site, has removed huge amounts of waste including six cars over the years! In June our contractors did a major clean-up along Clooney Road, removing dozens of tyres, hard-fill, oil drums, furniture and even what they reckon was equipment for growing cannabis.

“Unfortunately, within a week, the fly-tippers were back, and a toilet was dumped at the site. We have now put up cameras to monitor the roadside and will be forwarding any footage showing illegal dumping to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

anti-dumping and CCTV signs at Curran

“As well as large pieces of individual rubbish, there are lots of single items which people are clearly throwing out their vehicle windows. It is sad when people see the environment in general, and this very special site, as a bin for their use.”

Fly-tipping is a recognised threat to all peatland habitats like Curran and to the environment in general. “The CANN project has allowed us to actively restore this bog and many others but we are battling against these beautiful areas being treated as tips. It makes no sense to dump your bog in the bog and risk a fine when you could just as easily take it to Mid Ulster’s main recycling centre in Magherafelt for free,” said Dr Fox.


Dam those Drains for Peat’s Sake

CANN is tackling global climate change by re-wetting local bogs across Northern Ireland. Garry Bog, Peatlands Park and Moneygal Bog are targets for the next tranche of work this autumn. Local action for global benefit.

First to be tackled is Moneygal near Castlederg and next week heavy machinery will move onto the bog to block old drains and help to re-wet this internationally important habitat so that it starts to function as an actively growing bog again. The rejuvenated bog will be rich in biodiversity and will also capture and keep carbon out of the atmosphere helping Northern Ireland do its bit towards national climate change obligations.

“Years ago, Moneygal Bog was drained so that it could be cut for turf and planted with conifers and those drains have continued to carry water off the site causing it to slowly dry out. Now the CANN project  has allowed us to actively restore this bog and many others across Northern Ireland, Ireland and Western Scotland,” said Simon Gray from  Ulster Wildlife

Moneygal Bog, which is a Special Area of Conservation and National Nature Reserve, is one of eight raised bogs across Northern Ireland included in the project.

“Although protected, all these bogs are in poor condition, mostly because they have dried out and the important peat-building Sphagnum mosses cannot grow. Blocking drains is the quickest and most effective way of reversing that trend,” Simon continued.

“We work with hydrologists at the RPS Group who pinpoint exactly where to block drains to get the most impact. We monitor the water table monthly and will keep a watching eye on levels after the drains have been blocked.

“We need the water to be within 10 cm of the surface for 90% of the year and blocking the drains is the only way this will happen. A healthy wet bog is excellent at capturing carbon and bog restoration is a key tool in our work to tackle climate change.

Ulster Wildlife has also removed over 10ha of invasive conifers and scrub from the bog this year. The re-wetting will help stop further invasion.

Moneygal Bog is owned by the Northern Ireland Forest Service. Ciaran Cassidy, Forest Stewardship Officer, said:

“We are delighted to see active conservation on this very important site and have worked closely with Ulster Wildlife and the CANN project to allow this to happen.”


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