Humans have introduced a large number of plant and animal species into non-native habitats. In a relatively small number of cases, a combination of favourable environmental conditions and lack of predators permits a species to become invasive. Often such invasions have severe impacts on the biodiversity and integrity of the new habitats. In Ireland there are a number of invasive non-native species which pose threats to local biodiversity. Foremost in terms of the area covered, density and resulting sterilising effect is Rhododendron ponticum L. This woody shrub grows up to 7 m tall and has toxins in the leaves capable of killing domestic stock.
Rhododendron invades several Annex 1 habitats in Ireland listed under the EU Habitats Directive, including old oak woodland with Ilex and Blechnum, North Atlantic wet heaths, dry heaths and blanket bogs. Successful control of rhododendron is required to maintain these habitats in ‘favourable conservation status’. The scale of rhododendron infestation is such that it needs to be tackled at the landscape scale i.e. across a whole catchment or hillside. The project seeks to transfer the experience gained in rhododendron control to other practitioners and environments. It also aims to develop cost-effective methods which use less or no herbicide, for use in conservation areas
This project will focus on three key research areas as follows:
- Developing an aging key for rhododendron
- Invasion dynamics of rhododendron
- Calorific value of rhododendron
- Seed longevity and viability
Please contact Nick McCarthy (email@example.com ) for further information.