Avon Invasive Weed Forum - Newsletter Halt the Alien Invasion! Alien plant species such as Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed have invaded! and are causing a major impact to our native wildlife. These alien or non-native plant species were all introduced into Britain by man in Victorian times and are now spreading rapidly throughout our countryside, and especially along our riverbanks. These plants grow very quickly and can overshadow native plants and cause terrible decline or even elimination of native plants in their wake. This invasion can transform habitats and whole ecosystems, and can also have major impact on buildings and other structures costing thousands of pounds to deal with. The Avon Invasive Weed Forum or AIWF is an independent forum group which is supported by The Environment Agency; Avon and Frome Partnership; Bristol City, South Gloucestershire, and BANES County Councils; BRERC; The Wildlife Trust; British Waterways; and Network Rail. It also has support from several local individuals and local conservation groups. The Avon Invasive Weed Forum’s main aim is to raise awareness of the issue of non- native invasive weeds in the Bristol and Avon area. The forum is also working with other organisations to help co-ordinate their control, and also to improve our understanding of where these weeds are, by carrying out weed surveys and setting up a public recording system. Events and News May 2009 35 volunteers, including staff from the Environment Agency, Defra, and the local community, gathered at the River Frome in Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire, on Friday 22nd May to help the Avon Invasive Weed Forum (AIWF) to Halt the Invasion! Volunteers worked very hard to clear huge patches of the alien invasive weed, Himalayan Balsam, from the river banks of the river. Picture left: Himalayan Balsam Himalayan Balsam spreads easily because it produces purplish-pink flowers which can produce up to 800 seeds which are exploded out of seed pods and are scattered around each plant. It is hoped that the work carried out at the event will have a major impact on the ecosystem, as these weeds were cleared before they were able to spread their seeds this year. Hopefully helping any native plant species get a stronger hold on the river banks that we have cleared. This is important, not only to maintain a diverse and healthy native ecosystem, but also to help prevent erosion of the river banks. Himalayan Balsam is a problem because it dies back in the winter leaving the banks bare and vulnerable to erosion. On Sunday 24 May, local people taking part in the Colliter's Brook Trek, organised by the South Bristol Riverscapes Project, were given a talk on invasive weeds by the AIWF and some were also enlisted to help with a survey to map the invasive weeds along the banks of the Colliter's Brook. This is a brook which flows through Ashton Vale in south Bristol. This will form part of the AIWF's plan to survey key watercourses in the former Avon area. th Picture above: Trekkers on the Colliters Brook Trek, May 24 2009 Both of these events mark the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22nd. This year’s focus is non-native species, as Invasive Non-native Species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide. It is hoped that this day will raise public awareness and understanding of the issues. June 2009 The Bristol Festival of Nature was held at Bristol's harbourside over the weekend of 6- 7th June 2009. This event attracts up to 40,000 visitors each year, who come to see the interesting exhibitions, displays, talks and screenings about all things nature and natural history. This year the AIWF had an exhibition and stand in the Environment Agency marquee at the festival. It attracted lots of interested visitors who learnt about invasive weeds and how to go about getting rid of them in their own gardens and ponds. We also had some interest in getting involved in the forum and volunteer opportunities. July 2009 On 2nd July 25 volunteers including staff from the Environment Agency’s Wessex Area Environment Management Team, Bristol City Council, Wessex Water and local youths and adult conservation volunteers came together to clear Himalayan Balsam from 2 urban watercourses in Bristol. These were the River Malago in Manor Woods Valley, Bishopsworth and the Colliters Brook in Ashton Vale. All the hard work and sweat on a very warm day certainly paid off, as huge patches of this invasive weed were cleared from both sites. Above: Volunteers pulling Himalayan Balsam at the River Malago, Manor Woods, Bishopsworth, Bristol. Above: Volunteers pulling Himalayan Balsam at Colliters Brook, Ashton Vale, Bristol. August 2009 On 4th August another team of Environment Officers and members of the Malago Valley Conservation Group got together again and pulled out another huge stand of Himalayan Balsam from the banks of the Malago to follow up the event on the 2 nd July. This time in torrential rain and wind! But the results were brilliant and we are hoping that with another session next year we might have almost eradicated it from the park! September 2009 Members of the Malago Valley and Kingfisher Conservation Groups will be helping the AIWF to complete the surveying of the River Malago in Bristol. This survey and surveys of other watercourses in the area will help us to better understand how big the issue is in our area with non-native invasive weeds. Upcoming Events The AIWF will be arranging several more volunteer events and invasive weed surveys. If you would like to get involved in the Forum or if you would like to lend a hand in future events, please contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the AIWF web site at www.aiwf.org.uk. Victoria Freke - Project Officer, Avon Invasive Weed Forum.