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Firm helps fight Spey Bay plant invaders

By Lorna Thompson

A LOCAL business has shored up work by volunteers to fight off the threat posed by invasive plants at Spey Bay Wildlife Reserve.

The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation has awarded £2400 to the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) to tackle the major threat to wildlife posed at the beauty spot.

Alder woodland and coastal shingle habitats on the reserve are under threat from giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed. Invasive species can quickly spread and out-compete native plants, causing further negative impacts for further up the food chain.

The cash has helped the trust to purchase equipment, including tools and protective clothing that staff and volunteers need to tackle the problem.

Volunteers at Spey Bay Wildlife Reserve. Picture: Michelle Henley.
Volunteers at Spey Bay Wildlife Reserve. Picture: Michelle Henley.

Michelle Henley, reserve projects officer at the SWT, said: "Invasive non-native species are one of the biggest threats to Scotland’s wildlife.

"When these plants are allowed to out-compete native species it can have a knock-on effect all the way up the food chain, for example, by depriving butterflies of the plants they lay their eggs on.

"We are aiming to remove and control the spread of giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam to allow native species to flourish again. Building up a strong team of local volunteers is vital for this long-term work, and the financial support from the foundation has made a huge difference by allowing us to get more people involved."

Foundation manager Kay Jackson was joined by trustees Margaret Stenton and George McIntyre on a visit to the reserve to see their efforts first-hand. She said: "The reserve is home to habitats of both national and European importance, so it is incredibly important they are protected from these invasive non-native species. We were particularly pleased to hear that a catchment-wide approach to the problem is being taken.

"As a foundation, sustainability is something we look at very closely when considering applications so we were delighted to meet some of the local volunteers and are confident this strong team will make a real difference over the years to come.

"The beautiful Spey Bay Wildlife Reserve attracts visitors from the local area and beyond, and so we are thrilled our award of £2400 will be used to help to protect this special place for generations to come."

Volunteer Ralph Gardner said: "I have lived at Spey Bay for over 30 years and have seen what harm invasive non-native species have caused to the area. I’m very happy to be part of a caring group of like-minded people who are trying to eradicate these plants. This is an ongoing task which will take several years to achieve."

Spey Bay Wildlife Reserve has the largest shingle beach in Scotland. Constant changes in the River Spey create a succession of special habitats, including bare shingle, coastal grasslands, saltmarsh and wet woodland.

The trust organises regular volunteer days at Spey Bay. For more information visit scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk.

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