Japanese knotweed, ash dieback, Indian balsam: Understanding Ireland's invasive species

Japanese knotweed, ash dieback, Indian balsam: Understanding Ireland’s invasive species

As the story goes, an invasive gray squirrel was brought to Ireland as a wedding gift. A couple were released in Cork in the early 1900s as a ceremonial gesture for the bride and groom.

“I don’t really buy that 110 percent,” says Leif Barry of the diplomatic speculation. “Do people like squirrels? Oh yeah. Have they been in Britain for a long time? Yes, they were. Can someone bring them in and leave a few in the park because they just love nature?” In case.

Barry is an environmental scientist who works as an Office of Public Works (OPW) guide on invasive species and runs a biodiversity walk through Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

Unlike non-native species that coexist with native species, invasive alien species are alarming because they become established before they take over everything around them.

They cost the world at least 392 billion euros a year and are a major threat to biodiversity, a UN report said this week. In Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Center lists a number of species that have been recorded here at some point, some of which may not yet exist.

It’s a specialist area but other names roll off the tongue – Japanese knotweed, rhododendron ponticum, giant hogweed. Among the species, ideer silk, zebra mussels, a dignified widow spider, and even a wild boar.

“They’ve done a lot of things to try to stop it,” says Barry, returning to the example of the common gray squirrel. “It turns out that if we were to eliminate all the gray squirrels in the park, people would come back within a month. Because it would come in from other parks. It’s gone too far.”

Phoenix Park offers just a peak into what is a national phenomenon. Walking around a small patch of wood, Barry stops every few meters to identify an invasive plant or creature that has been introduced to Ireland at some point over the centuries, some more menacing than others.

Many of them are colonial heritage, evidence of a time when Britain proudly introduced plant life throughout its empire. The best presented as symbols of status, symbols of culture, sophistication and knowledge. Many of them develop, long after their effects are recognized.

There are other distractions. Ash dieback, a disease that threatens 95 per cent of Irish ash trees, is caused by the invasive fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus..

Barry stops by an ash tree near Knockmaroon Gate Lodge park. Dieback is at the forefront of the public imagination, he believes, because of the ash tree’s place in Irish life centuries ago. It is a reliable seller of wood, and the first native spears were carved from its trunks, as was the first airplane to land in Phoneix Park in 1912. Barry pointed out the symptoms of the disease. But there is hope.

“There is a way out; 5 percent [of trees are] genetic resistance,” he says, explaining that cutting down all the ash trees would remove a potential solution. “It can be contagious but it can fight disease … there is bacteria in the ash tree that will fight the fungus.” The seeds from these trees can be grafted and planted.

Japanese knotweed was established as far back as the 1900s but has become popular in recent times after a long hiatus, Barry said. Today, it is a serious threat to building integrity. Roadside warning signs to not cut the crop are common because, Barry explains, the smallest spread is all it takes to spread.

The bright purple Indian balsam was once promoted and planted as a good forage plant for honey bees. He says: “Now it is an invasive species that has gone through all the rivers. “It establishes itself, competes with all the native plants and then in the winter it dies and leaves a bare clay wall.”

In the late 20th century, the Harlequin Ladybird was introduced from Asia to eat aphids that feed on plants. Then it started eating the native Irish beetles.

Like ash dieback, many invasive species decline to be imported. Walking around a large lake where the governor of North Africa passes, Barry says that the poisonous oak moth, which has been discussed recently and is dangerous to humans and animals, comes from cheaper trees from other countries.

An important step is to encourage people who see aggressive animals to report them. The oak march moth can be stopped here but the challenge is great. Barry believes that today’s new age of abundance and appreciation of nature makes meeting this challenge possible. Times have changed.

“We have things that comfort us now. People started looking back; Because I have enough food, I have a roof over my head, I have a salary,” he says. “What else do you want? Yes, you need a stable place to live. “

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