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Helping to eliminate non native species
Cornwall College Newquay students have discovered first hand the damage non native plants can have on ponds and wildlife, when they were asked to help with the gruelling task of removing the species at Enfield Park in Camelford.
Nicola Morris, Project Co-ordinator said: “Invasive non-native species are those which have been introduced to this country from abroad and have then grown rapidly because they don’t have the natural predators to prevent them from spreading. I’m sure most people have heard of Japanese Knotweed and the problems this can cause, well there are lots of non-native plants out there and they are slowly affecting the biodiversity of our native plants, by growing so much they block out sunlight and oxygen, choke up waterways and affect drainage causing native plant species and animals to suffer.”
After a quick chat with Nicola about this problem, FdSc Applied Ecology and FdSc Marine Conservation students jumped at the chance to help eliminate these species at Enfield Park, as they were causing problems. As well as being relevant to their coursework, students were also given extra tutoring on biosecurity, which involves how to prevent the spread of the non native plants and they were given practical workshops on the identification of various plant species.
Nicola continues: “The pond at Enfield Park in Camelford was really beginning to suffer from three non-native invasive pond weeds. So we set to work clearing the pond and helping to restore its biodiversity. The students were really enthusiastic about the work and weren’t the least bit bothered about getting wet and muddy.
“During the removal task we all had to ensure that the invasive plants were disposed of correctly and everyone had to be careful not to spread the plants to other areas of the park, this included making sure wellies were completely washed each time, hands were clean and clothes free of stray leaves and stalks.”
Non native invasive species can spread very easily. People could unknowingly buy a non native plant from a garden centre and pass it onto neighbours or friends, or children collecting tadpoles from one pond could put them back in another which can also cause the plants to spread. The clearance at Enfield Park is part of the Student Invasive Non-Native Group (SINNG), which is funded by Defra and supports the “Be Plant Wise” campaign. “Be Plant Wise” was set up by Defra to raise awareness among gardeners, pond owners and retailers of the damage caused by invasive aquatic plants and to encourage the public to dispose of these plants correctly.
The Enfield Park clearance is an ongoing project which has also included members of the public giving up their time to help. Nicola has been so overwhelmed by the support she has had and the success of this project, that she has since arranged a number of other similar projects throughout the County, which also includes other invasive plant and animal species.
All undergraduate courses at Cornwall College are awarded by Plymouth University.