2013-06-12  facebook twitter rss

'Wildwatchers' Can Help Protect North Pennines from Invasive Plants

Volunteers on a wildlife project that maps the plants and animals of the North Pennines are being called on to become native species security guards by reporting invasive plants, some of which can grow up to five metres high.

The North Pennines AONB Partnership’s three-year WildWatch project, supported with more than £300,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has so far trained over 800 volunteers in a bid to monitor the wildlife of the area.

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan Balsam

In its first 18 months the project has collected almost 9,000 records, which are then shared with regional record centres.

This invasive plant focus complements the project’s second year initiative to enable members of the public to help create a database of potentially damaging species.

New Project Co-ordinator Sam Finn said as the number of registered WildWatch volunteers has grown, their contribution to protecting the delicate balance for wildlife has increased:

She said: “Invasive plants are a particular problem around watercourses where they out-compete species. We’re asking our volunteers to report sightings especially higher up the reaches of the Tees, Wear and South Tyne tributaries so we can build up a picture of the problem. Alerts to any new trouble spots will be very helpful.”

To make sure that reports of sightings are accurate, and to increase the amount of good quality data, free training courses are offered to assist with identification skills. The first invasive species event takes place on the 20th June in Cotherstone, in Teesdale, lead by Tees River’s Trust Invasive Species Coordinator, John Musham.

Sam said that to help gather as much information as possible on invasive plants, anyone around the North Pennines can report sightings:

“Postcard survey forms are being distributed throughout the North Pennines to supplement records added to the website. We’re hoping that this big push will help us get a really good idea of problem areas in the AONB to enable us to control the spread of plants like Himalayan balsam, giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed.”

New sightings of previously clear stretches are a priority for reporting and will be shared with the river trusts to inform them on areas where riverbanks are experiencing new invasions, whilst adding to a picture of areas worst affected.

Along with the invasive plants record gathering project, there are other opportunities to get involved with Wildwatch from wildlife and habitat surveying of important Local Wildife Sites, to regular butterfly studies, to moth or small mammal trapping.

For wildflower enthusiasts, a two date course in Dufton, Cumbria is taking place on the 19th and 29th June. All the course details and booking information are on the WildWatch website.

Sam said: “We’re very excited about the great interest WildWatch has inspired. The level of records generated from volunteers already represents a significant contribution to better understanding of threats from invasive plants and the state and quality of flowers in the North Pennines.”

WildWatch North Pennines is open to anyone regardless of previous experience or knowledge. People can record wildlife by registering with WildWatch on the website, where there is also useful information on wildlife identification, and all the latest training and survey information.

Once registered, participants will receive regular updates about events, new training courses, survey opportunities and more.

For even more regular news snippets, including some of the more interesting wildlife sightings and wildlife news, people can follow WildWatch on Facebook (WildWatchNorthPennines) or Twitter (@NorthPennWild).

North Pennines

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