A £2.6 million project to protect the waterways of Ireland and Scotland will be launched today (Tuesday 1 February) at Queen’s University Belfast. This critical project aims to control invasive plants, such as the giant hogweed, which are taking over river banks; limiting their use for angling and recreation, destroying ecosystems, and causing health problems for those who come into contact with the aggressive plants.
Invasive species are the second biggest cause of biodiversity loss worldwide. Their economic impact in Europe has been estimated at over €12 billion per year, and they cost around £7.5 million to control each year in river corridors in Britain.
These species are plants that have been introduced to a place where they do not naturally occur. They can be bigger, faster growing or more aggressive than native plants, therefore upsetting the balance of the ecosystem. They may also have fewer natural predators to control numbers, meaning that native plants are often unable to compete and the invasive species quickly take over.
The EU funded CIRB project (Controlling Priority Invasive Species and Restoring Native Biodiversity) will control ‘invasive species’ like the giant hogweed, rhododendron, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam, in river catchments in border regions of Ireland and Scotland.
The CIRB project will focus on the River Faughan in Co. Derry/Londonderry, the Newry Canal/Clanrye River, and the Rive Dee/River Glyde in Co. Louth, alongside twelve catchments within the Argyll, Ayrshire, Galloway and Tweed areas of Scotland.
CIRB project manager Dr Cathy Maguire from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences said: “As well as damaging natural biodiversity, invasive species can cause serious problems for local communities. They take over river banks, preventing their use for angling and recreation. The giant hogweed also contains toxic sap that can cause painful blisters on anyone who comes into contact with it. The CIRB project will allow us to develop new approaches to controlling invasive species and restoring river catchments. By combining the latest scientific research with action on the ground, and by engaging with local communities to train people in how to identify and control invasive plants, we can prevent further environmental, economic and social damage.”
Professor Christine Maggs, CIRB project leader and Head of Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “These species, and their environmental, social and economic impact, are a growing problem in the UK and Ireland. Through the CIRB project, scientists at Queen’s, in partnership with the Rivers and Fisheries Trust Trusts of Scotland, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the University of Ulster, aim to control or eradicate invasive species and restore the natural biodiversity of our waterways.”
SEUPB’s Chief Executive, Pat Colgan, commended the project saying: “I would like to welcome the launch of this project, which addresses key objectives of the INTERREG IVA Programme concerning the sustainable development of the eligible region, as well as the EU’s broader objectives in environmental protection. This project is a great example of how the overarching priorities of the Programme can successfully be applied to local and region-specific environmental challenges.”
The CIRB project will run until December 2014 and is part financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVA Cross-border Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.