Tackling invasive species

In recognition of Invasive Species Week ecologist Tom King has outlined why tackling invasive species helps make life better by the water for everyone who visits.

Floating pennywork covering most of canal with boat moored at side Floating pennywort, copyright GBNNS

We need to keep our waterways open to boats. Floating pennywort can grow 20cm a day. This can quickly block a canal or river and so we work hard to make sure outbreaks are contained.

We want to minimise damage to boats. Zebra mussels can attach themselves to the bottom of boats. This can damage the boat and can increase drag, both of which increase costs for boat owners.

We need to be able to control water levels. Invasive species can affect our ability to control water, which can lead to a lack of water or too much. Species like floating pennywort can build up so much that it blocks water control points.

We need to protect our wildlife. A direct link has been show between American mink and the fall in water vole populations that used to be common along our waterways. Invasive shrimps have also been shown to harm our native invertebrates, which then impacts fish and bird populations. One of the reasons that life is better by the water is the variety of wildlife there, so it’s important that invasive species are kept at bay.

What we’re doing

We’re always looking for the most effective ways of tackling invasive species. At the moment we’re investigating ways to reduce our reliance on the use of herbicides. In Birmingham we’re investigating if a steam cleaning kit can kill invasive plants in the long term.

We are also investigating hot foam kits as these have been shown to help control invasive plants, although they are too big to be transported down a towpath at the moment.

Last date edited: 29 August 2018