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Call for citizen scientists to help map Rhododendron

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Citizens are being asked to play a part in mapping rhododendron to help control its spread.

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A new App, the National Biodiversity Data Centres, can be downloaded where members of the public can input data to help locate and treat the plant.

This ornamental plant, once prized for its beautiful flowers and usefulness as a hedge for creating shelter, was planted around Muckross in the 19th Century.

Since then it has spread to, or been planted in, many other locations and is a common sight in many areas. It is a species which originated from the Mediterranean and has done exceedingly well in our Irish climate, particularly here in Kerry.

Rhododendron has thrived at the expense of our own native habitats and species. The old oak woodlands, for which Killarney is renowned, are under serious threat from the invasion of this species, as are many of the peatland habitats such as the heath and bogs. Rhododendron can form dense thickets, blocking light, shading out native vegetation and preventing regeneration.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have been tackling the Rhododendron in Killarney National Park for many years. In parts of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, such as the Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley, Rhododendron is also becoming well established. Local farmers regularly comment on the rate of spread over the last 10-15 years and until recently, no action had been taken to address the spread.

Over the last two years, The MacGillycuddy Reeks European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Project, a locally led agri-environmental project, led by South Kerry Development Partnership, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 which aims to improve the sustainability and economic viability of the farming in the MacGillycuddy Reeks, has been working with local landowners in the area to manage Rhododendron ponticum and prevent the loss of protected heath and bog habitats and grazing lands to this species. Given the nature of invasive species, and the speed at which they spread, early intervention leads to more efficient and successful treatment. For many landowners the prospect of dealing with well-established populations on their own is an incredibly daunting task.

BEST PRACTICE

With the support of the EIP project team, a collective working group has been established to assist farmers and landowners in treating rhododendron on their land. It has facilitated mandatory training (Hand Held Pesticide Application, QQI Level 5) on the correct use of pesticides and on best practice methods for treating Rhododendron for all farmers and members of the collective group carrying out this work.

Concerns have been raised about the spread of this invasive species throughout the Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and beyond where going unchecked it will have a significant impact on our native biodiversity. This year with funding from the National Biodiversity Action Plan (NPWS) and support from Kerry County Council and the Kerry Biosphere team in collaboration with the MacGillycuddy Reeks EIP Project have launched a campaign to raise awareness of this issue and begin the process of mapping the areas where this plant has spread to.

"We are asking citizens to play a part in mapping rhododendron ponticum throughout Kerry using the National Biodiversity Data Centres recording App so that the process of managing this invasive species can begin," Eleanor Turner, Biosphere Officer with the Kerry Biosphere Reserve, told the Killarney Advertiser.

"Later in the year demonstration events for treatment of rhododendron will be held for interested landowners, farmers and community groups."

Control of rhododendron is not a one-time treatment but must be carried out in several phases over a number of years. The Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve will be working over the next number of years to support landowners, farmers and communities in managing this problem.

For more information follow the Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on Facebook @kerrybiosphere or email kerrybiosphere@skdp.net, or watch a demonstration video for treating rhododendron on Youtube @kerrybiosphere.

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NPWS survey to find out impact of fires

By Michelle Crean The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has commissioned a comprehensive survey on the impact of fires over the past four decades – in particular Killarney National Park in April. The tender, worth €300,000, and named ‘Study on the Impact of Fires On The Biodiversity of Killarney National Park’, seeks to find […]

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By Michelle Crean

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has commissioned a comprehensive survey on the impact of fires over the past four decades – in particular Killarney National Park in April.

The tender, worth €300,000, and named ‘Study on the Impact of Fires On The Biodiversity of Killarney National Park’, seeks to find out the biological impacts of the fires in the 26,000 acre park.

The fires in April burned from Friday night on April 23 until around 12pm the following Monday when they were finally brought under control.

Parts of the Park were scorched resulting in flora and fauna being wiped out. Some fires came as close as 10 metres to a church and school in the Black Valley area.

Fires raged near Tomies Wood and fire crews from five different districts quenched fires near the properties under threat. A real threat was for The Oak Woods but fire fighters managed to avert danger.

The fire is believed to have begun on the Kenmare Road area escalated by the strong winds.

“The purpose of this tender is to commission a comprehensive survey of the impacts, and the chrono-sequence of fire recovery or otherwise, on lands burned over the past four decades, as well as surveys in unburned areas, in order to assess the biological impacts of the fires, in particular the fire of April 2021, on the biodiversity of Killarney National Park,” an NPWS spokesperson told the Killarney Advertiser.

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Killarney spin will bring comfort to patients

By Michelle Crean Ahead of this year’s ladies only 54321 Challenge a number of spinathons are taking place, including in Killarney town. Sunday, August 15 a group of 10 ladies plan a spinathon day in Killarney ahead of their four day epic adventure from Thursday, August 19 to Sunday 22. This year due to COVID […]

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By Michelle Crean

Ahead of this year’s ladies only 54321 Challenge a number of spinathons are taking place, including in Killarney town.

Sunday, August 15 a group of 10 ladies plan a spinathon day in Killarney ahead of their four day epic adventure from Thursday, August 19 to Sunday 22.

This year due to COVID restrictions the 54321 team will run with two teams of five people, all female – who are raising funds for one single charity – Comfort for Chemo Kerry.

Their four day challenge will include a cycle the Ring of Kerry on day one (Thursday 19), a climb up Carrantuohil on day two (Friday 20), a cycle from Killarney to the foot of Cnoc Na Tobair and then climb Cnoc Na Tobair on day three (Saturday 21) finishing off with a cycle of the Skellig Ring on day four (Sunday 22).

In advance of the ninth annual challenge they will first participate in the spinathons at various locations to help raise much needed funds for this year’s chosen charity.

The first of the spinathons will take place on Saturday, July 31 in Listowel, Killorglin, Dingle, Cahersiveen. On the day volunteers will take to the spinning bikes from 10am to 5pm in different locations around these towns.
This will be followed by Killarney on Sunday, August 15, and Tralee on Saturday, August 28.

When choosing this year’s charity, organisers contacted a past participant and a dear friend, Mairead Dunphy from Glencar who is currently on her own journey with cancer.

“We wanted to show our support to Mairead and knowing that she would like to support those who have supported her on her journey so far, she had already being looking at ideas to raise much needed funds for Comfort for Chemo Kerry,” TJ O’Connor said.

“Please support Comfort for Chemo Kerry by giving what you can.”

For more information about the spinathons go to www.54321challenge.org or the Comfort for Chemo Kerry Facebook page for online donation information.

There’s also a GoFundMe page: ‘Comfort for Chemo Kerry – 54321 Challenge 2021’ which has a €20,000 target set up.

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