Project group meets to discuss the invasive species blighting north-east communities

The first meeting of a forum created to tackle the challenges and damage caused by invasive non-native plants in Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City has met for the first time, as activities took place across the country to mark Invasive Species Week.

The North East Invasive Non-Native Species Project met on Wednesday, February 28, for a day of discussion of plants and animals that have been introduced to the north-east over the years.

Many plant and animal species introduced to the United Kingdom have provided benefits to society. However, others which spread rapidly due to the absence of competitors or predators can cause significant environmental damage and can be very costly and difficult to control or eradicate.

Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam are just three such plants causing considerable problems in the north east of Scotland. They have spread along watercourses and into other natural habitats, where they form dense stands, reducing the natural biodiversity and causing structural problems such as bank erosion.

Over the last few years, the rivers trusts, local communities, local authorities and statutory bodies have been taking steps to control these species, with a study identifying opportunities for better co-ordination among partners, and the need for a forum to allow sharing of information and good practice across the north east. 

Aberdeenshire Council led a bid to the LEADER Co-operation Fund (the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) which has funded the employment of a North East Invasive Non-Native Species Project Co-ordinator, Calum Hislop.

Calum will work with a broad range of organisations, community groups and volunteers to control and prevent the spread of invasive plants.

“I am looking forward to working with a broad range of organisations, community groups and volunteers to control and prevent the spread of invasive plants” said Calum.

Supporting the project’s work are Aberdeenshire Cllrs Anne Stirling and Anouk Kloppert, who have signed up as champions to raise awareness of the threats posed by invasive non-native species.

“Taking a co-ordinated approach to tackling the issue of invasive non-native plants across Aberdeenshire gives us the best chance of making a noticeable impact,” said Cllr Stirling.

“I’m very pleased we have Calum as a dedicated project officer to work with all the groups involved, as this will allow more efficient targeting of control work and the best use of available resources,”

Cllr Kloppert added: “I am aware that work to control invasive species on the River Ythan has been ongoing for several years now and relies on a dedicated group of volunteers.

“In order to continue and expand this work, it is important that we provide volunteers with the necessary training and equipment, and this forum will have an important role in co-ordinating activities and charting progress.”

Aberdeen City Council’s operational delivery convener, Cllr John Wheeler, said: “Aberdeen City Council has been working to halt the spread of these invasive non-native plants along the rivers but the collaborative approach of this project working from the top of the catchments will mean our efforts will be more sustainable on the lower parts of the rivers as there will be less seed and roots washing down.

“We can benefit from the knowledge, skill and volunteering opportunities the project brings too.”

For further information or to get involved in this project, please contact Calum Hislop at calum@riverdee.org