19/11/2014

Avon Invasive Weeds Forum secures grant to safeguard species within the River Avon

​The Avon Invasive Weeds Forum (AIWF) has been granted over £13,000 through SITA Trust - following an application submitted by the Bristol Zoological Society - to control invasive weeds within the River Avon, which threaten both plant and animal species.

The River Avon and its major tributaries is one of the most important river systems in the UK, supporting internationally and nationally important habitats and species. The Avon is rich in biodiversity with over 180 species of river plant, one of the most diverse fish populations in Britain and a wide range of river invertebrates.

The Avon Invasive Weeds Forum (AIWF) has been granted over £13,000 through SITA Trust - following an application submitted by the Bristol Zoological Society - to control invasive weeds within the River Avon, which threaten both plant and animal species.

The River Avon and its major tributaries is one of the most important river systems in the UK, supporting internationally and nationally important habitats and species. The Avon is rich in biodiversity with over 180 species of river plant, one of the most diverse fish populations in Britain and a wide range of river invertebrates.

Non-native invasive weeds such as Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam, and Giant Hogweed have the ability to grow and spread very quickly and extensively. The weeds can colonise entire sections of bankside leading to the winter erosion bank side structure due to lack of all year round plant cover.

The loss of native bankside vegetation sees the reduction of populations of iconic animals such as breeding kingfishers, dippers, water voles and plant species such as, stream water-crowfoot, small teasel, greater dodder, nettle beds and the rare Loddon pondweed.

The Avon Invasive Weeds Forum (AIWF) was established in 2008 to educate, raise awareness, survey, control and reduce the negative impact of invasive non-native weeds in the River Frome and the River Avon catchment as a whole. The forum brings together major partners: Bristol Zoological Society, Defra, Environment Agency, Bristol City Council and community groups.

Jen Nightingale, UK conservation manager at Bristol Zoological Society said:“We are so pleased to be able to dedicate time and resource to this important conservation work. Bristol Avon is a nutrient-rich river but its exceptional conservation status is under threat from non-native invasive weeds.”

SITA Trust’s ‘enriching nature programme’ grant will enable AIWF to continue to maintain and enhance the characteristic biological diversity and natural features of the River Avon and where necessary restore habitat to encourage expansion of key species.

The grant has enabled AIWF’s ‘big pull’ campaign, in which members of the public are invited to pull up Himalayan Balsam, one of the main invasive weeds responsible for strangling and eradicating native species within the River Avon.

The ‘big pull’ relies on volunteer engagement to sustain the practical on site activities of controlling and managing non-native invasive weeds along the Avon and Frome catchment areas. Over 1000 volunteer hours have been donated through the ‘big pull’, which is also sponsored by Burges Salmon. This season’s campaign has been running since April 2014 and will close at the end of this month (September) and will be repeated again next year.

Neil Green, Avon Invasive Weeds Project Officer, said: “We are overwhelmed by the level of volunteer support we have received so far this ‘pulling’ season. The SITA Trust grant enables us to better equip our volunteers and assign a project officer to the ‘big pull’, making the project more effective in safeguarding native species, facing eradication from non-native invasive species.”

Members of the public can get involved with the ‘big pull’ by emailing Neil Green (ngreen@bristolzoo.org.uk). Removing weeds from the River Avon without the guidance of AIWF could prove dangerous if not done using the right equipment so it is recommended those wanting to take part do so through the ‘big pull’ channels. 

This project has been supported with £13,960 through SITA Trust’s Enriching Nature Programme. SITA Trust provides funding to biodiversity conservation projects through the Landfill Communities Fund.

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