Invasives non-native species – how to ID and control

logosOn Friday, a packed room of participants came together in March to learn about identifying and controlling non-native invasive water plants.

This was a very good event, judging from the numerous positive responses heard by my colleague Abby and myself, both of us attending this event to up our own skills and to meet a range of stakeholders.

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Consultant botanist Jonathan Graham in July 2014 during fieldwork in local ditches near WWT Welney reserve as part of the OWLP’s ‘Ditch Management to the East of the Ouse Washes’ project; using his grappling hook to collect plant samples. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE for OWLP.

This event was made possible through the Heritage Lottery Fund grant money for one of the 25 projects within the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, the ‘Ditch Management to the East of the Ouse Washes’ project. Following successful fieldwork carried out by Jonathan Graham (consultant botanist) and Martin Hammond (consultant aquatic invertebrate specialist), Jonathan Graham, together with Cliff Carson (Environmental Officer, Middle Level Commissioners) delivered this exiting training half-day event.

After an introduction about invasive species, and a differentiation between ‘non-native’ and ‘invasive’ species (‘invasives’ being ‘non-natives which have a tendency to spread and pose a threat to the environment and/or human health), we continued with an overview of the mist important invasive water plants to look out for.

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Packed room during Friday’s event; Cliff Carson, Middle Level Commissioners, setting the scene for the day. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE for OWLP.

The top five ‘hazardous species’ (some of which are already wide-spread, some still only locally present) are [click on links to get to relevant description pages on www.nonnativespecies.org – note: click on ‘link to ID sheet’ for handy pdfs for each species]:

  1. Floating Pennywort
  2. New Zealand Pigmyweed
  3. Parrot’s Feather
  4. Floating & Water Primrose
  5. Water Fern

With examples on each table of these species, as well as native species with which they could be confused, we then all went to learn to identify these, with the help of several specialists walking around the room  (including both speakers as well as Charles Turner, Research Associate Quaternary Palaeoecology, for the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge).

A range of very useful handouts also passed on the day; these include:

 

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Jonathan Graham helping with ID of specimens, both native and non-native invasive water plants. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE for OWLP.

 

This workshop/ training event was a very practical approach to finding out what is there and how to identify the non-natives; plus guidance how to avoid mis-recording (e.g., some similar-looking rare fen specialist plants that could be confusing).

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A range of plant specimens and ID guides on each table during last week’s event. Image: Cambridgeshire ACRE for OWLP.

 

The event was attended by a wide range of people, including staff from Internal Drainage Boards, Middle Level Commissioners, Natural England, several conservation organisations as well as representatives of various local community groups. Some of the abundant positive feedback we received from participants:

“Good to have some training, much better than just looking at books or cards”

 ” It always opens your eyes when you are shown what to look out for!”

“Session invaluable, very useful to see plants up close”

” The various methods of control were compared, contrasted and explained”

“Excellent idea for promoting and sharing knowledge of invasive plants”

Related posts:

Our Mini-Crusades into Projects and Events with Our Partners

The entry into mosaic-making at Mepal Outdoor Centre: Sourced by Nathan Jones
The entry into mosaic-making at Mepal Outdoor Centre. Source: Nathan Jones

Myself and Abby involved and enjoyed ourselves with a couple of events lately – the Community Murals Project at Mepal last Thursday and the RSPB “Your local home for Nature” event at Fen Drayton on the Sunday. We went on behalf of the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership team wearing our OWLP T-shirts to support the project and our partners. logos

I helped out with creating the clouds in the mural, which was becoming a fantastic piece. It began to stunningly show the landscape and its wildlife in a large mosaic of beautiful flakes, jewel-like pieces and many colours. From its half-completion upon our entry at Mepal Outdoor Centre, it was quickly getting pulled together during the afternoon we were there, and I couldn’t wait to see the finished product! Few mothers and their children were hard at work being creative with glue, cutters and boxes of mosaics. We filled in the pictures drawn onto the marine plywood base and talked about the work in progress under the attentive guidance of artist Carolyn Ash. Several people came and went to admire or help out, and Abby took photographs, a video, notes and interviews to evaluate the event. They expressed positive enthusiasm and fun in the activity that brought out more understanding and appreciation of the landscape we are promoting.

In the process of the creation and evaluation of the mural and the workshop at Mepal. Sourced by Lizzie Bannister

In the process of the creation and evaluation of the mural and the workshop at Mepal. Source: Lizzie Bannister

We were back into our T-shirts the following weekend as part of the RSPB open day event at Fen Drayton.  I have often sped past on the Guided Busway, so it was great to be able to be on site for a change. We offered tasters of Ouse Washes Honey produced by Robert Taylor from Manea, and our mug game with Ouse Washes messages and jelly worms. We gave out promotional postcards with our contact details and website address under our banners and with the Heritage Lottery Fund posters. We explained and engaged people into our OWLP scheme, including about the Community Heritage Fund. We served tea, involved children to draw ideas they have about the Ouse Washes landscape and I stuck on alot of our OWLP stickers!

An example of work we got the people involved - to draw on postcards for the next murals event

An example of work we got the people involved – to draw on postcards for the next two murals event (this example was drawn at Mepal, the first mural event). Source: Nathan Jones

I also helped out the RSPB by making dragonflies with children and met some lovely RSPB people at this small event. I would be glad to come back again and explore more of Fen Drayton and build up my experience promoting OWLP at future public events.

Great artwork for us at our RSPB Fen Drayton open day stand! Sourced by Abby Stancliffe-Vaughan

Great artwork for us at our RSPB Fen Drayton open day stand! See the lovely dragonflies on the table too… Source: Abby Stancliffe-Vaughan

See the next event the OWLP team will be at, which is Haddenham Steam Rally on the 6th September!

Related posts:

People and Legacy: our Vision for the Ouse Washes

Heritage Lottery FundSome important decisions were made at our first Project Board meeting late last week, taking the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme to the next level. The Project Board consists of representatives from various partner organisations, together covering a wide range of interests: local communities; wildlife; historic environment; water management; farmers & land owners; public access; museums; and churches.

These Board Meetings take place every two months throughout the year; these are important focal points where decisions are made which concern the whole partnership.

One of the decisions made concerned the Vision, as well as the strategic Aims and Objectives for the whole of the LP scheme. A unanimous decision was made that we stick to the previously defined Vision, Aims and Objectives, as they were originally developed for the stage 1 bid. The Heritage Lottery Fund was particularly impressed with the stage 1 bid, as commented on in a previous post. This is also demonstrated in the HLF’s comments on our vision:

“The Scheme has a strong Vision … They have clearly given a lot of thought to it and I especially liked “A place that links the stories of the past and the possibilities of the future”, demonstrating they understand the importance of linking past experience with future activity (comment HLF appointed mentor, May 2012)”

Well, what’s our Vision? It is this:

The Ouse Washes will be:

A place managed for the needs of all its inhabitants and visitors,

A place for people to thrive and wildlife to flourish,

A place that links the stories of the past and the possibilities of the future.

Walkers - Anthea Abbott and family - permissions granted

Education

The Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership is, thus, very much focused on people – locals and visitors alike – and on leaving a clear legacy. This legacy, in the shape of a sustainable future for the landscape, its heritage and communities, will be based on a clear understanding of the past interactions of people with their environment in this landscape: by learning from the past, we can decide on the best future direction.

Swan Feeds at Welney

Training & Participation

Hence, education, training and community participation will form important elements of the scheme, in particular in all the projects which will take place during the Delivery phase (which starts in April 2014): education, to make people more aware of the uniqueness of this landscape; community participation, to provide a greater connection with the landscape and to provide a ‘sense of place’; and training, to provide people with skills in order to sustain the landscape’s special character.

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Providing for a sense of place

Read more about our Aims and Objectives, which follow logically from the overarching Vision, in this document:

Ouse Washes LPS_Vision Aims and Objectives

Further information about our aims for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership can be found on this page.

Let us know what you think: do you agree with the HLF’s comments? Is this indeed the right direction for the Ouse Washes? Has anything been overlooked?

Winter Wonderland

Heritage Lottery FundThis time I wanted to share some pretty pictures with you and take this as an opportunity to talk about another habitat creation scheme in the area. Both pictures were taken by a colleague late last week, just before the Ouse Washes area started receiving heaps of snow – with the frost on the trees and on the ground the landscape already looked in the grips of winter.

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These pictures were taken at Mepal Outdoor Centre. Cambridgeshire ACRE has recently taken over the management of this outdoors sports centre and will start running it as a varied and viable business this spring.

Mepal Outdoor Centre is located about a mile west from the Old Bedford River and comes with substantial grounds including a 20 acre lake. Not only is this a great location for the watersports and other outdoors activities on offer, there is also some woodland and the lake attracts a lot of wildlife as well.

In addition, across the road (the A142 between Ely and Chatteris) a large wetland area will be created over the next decades, Block Fen, which will eventually link this site with the Ouse Washes. Following aggregate extraction, part of the Block Fen area will be turned into an important wetland reserve including lakes and lowland wet grassland habitats. See for instance here to understand what is happening at Block Fen.

This will happen in stages over the next half century or so. The eventual results at Block Fen will have a dual function: additional water storage to reduce flood risk, and the creation of lowland wet grassland areas to compensate for the loss of similar habitats within the Ouse Washes itself, giving especially wintering and breeding birds the necessary environment being lost in the Ouse Washes washland due to more frequent unseasonal flooding. See also this previous post for a discussion of similar schemes at the south end of the LPS area. For some pictures of the lakes and wetlands already created at Block Fen, look here.

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Mepal Outdoor Centre: important for wildlife as well

With its convenient location pretty much halfway the extreme ends of the Ouse Washes LPS area, Mepal Outdoor Centre is also likely to play an important role in the delivery phase of the Ouse Washes LPS project. Several of the scheduled projects which will take place in and around the Ouse Washes between 2014 and 2016 will involve the provision of training days for volunteers in land management, biodiversity and archaeology. It is envisaged that many of these training sessions will be held at this centre, where most facilities for this are already in place.

By the way, if you have taken any nice pictures of the Ouse Washes in the snow and are happy for me to share these on this blog, please send them to me.