Avon Invasive Weeds Forum has just kick-started this year’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 River Avon and its major tributaries are some 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.
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.
Avon Invasive Weeds Forum (AIWF) was established in 2008 and brings together major partners: Bristol Zoological Society, Defra, Environment Agency, Bristol City Council and community groups. It aims 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.
Neil Green, Avon Invasive Weeds Project Officer, said: 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.”
Members of the public can get involved with the ‘Big Pull’ by emailing Neil Green email@example.com. 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.
The ‘Big Pull’ was awarded over £13,000 through SITA Trust last year following an application submitted by the Bristol Zoological Society to control invasive weeds which threaten both plant and animal species within the River Avon.
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.
Neil added: “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.”