a personal appraisal of an ecological 'time bomb'
by James Merryweather
(Skye & Lochalsh Environment Forum)


Rhododendron ponticum can no longer be regarded as an occasional or attractive curiosity in the Scottish - indeed the entire British - countryside. It is now recognised to be one of our most invasive and harmful alien weeds, though this is not widely known by people without a specific interest in ecology, wildlife and conservation. The situation described below is applicable to many parts of Scotland as well as the rest of Britain and Ireland.

Rhododendron is one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of woodland, heath, moorland and even commercial forest environments.

The threat is so severe that Forestry Commission Scotland - together with SNH and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, has appointed a dedicated control officer, Julie Paton. Ms Paton will advise landowners on how to control the problem with Scottish Government grants to support rhododendron control projects through the Scottish Rural Development Programme.

Her predecessor Liz Poulsom said in a statement: "Rhododendron ponticum is a non-native invasive shrub that can spread rapidly through woodlands and out into open moorland. It already covers around 4,400 hectares in mainland Argyll alone and is present across Scotland. It is already posing a concern for protected habitats as far east as Angus.

"The bushes shade out lower ground flora and suppress the regeneration of tree seedlings but they also host two fungal infections that can have a negative impact on the surrounding environment and on biodiversity.

"If left unchecked this species could do a lot of damage to Scotland's important native woodlands so we need to take severe and urgent action."

That this invasive rhododendron constitutes a significant threat to the countryside that urgently requires action is now, demonstrably, beyond any doubt. It is likely that complete eradication will be the only satisfactory remedy and, although that should not be impossible, it will not be an easy task (to say the least). continue reading ... ...

ANOTHER ESSAY by James Merryweather:
Chinese whispers become conservation lore.

Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum would like to thank the following organisations for their support:
Scottish Natural Heritage
The European Agriculture fund for Rural Development. Europe investing in rural areas
The Highland Council
The Scottish Government
Skye & Lochalsh Environment Forum, The Old Police Station, Isleornsay, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland IV43 8QR

Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SC040820).

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