Has Thomas Becket's treasured 'little book' been found? This restarts the cycle of infestation, making the original clearance a waste of time, effort and money. On one drive, I point out to Cahalane that regrowth is very obvious in several “cleared” areas, with plants big enough to be easily visible at several hundred metres. The rhododendron infestation and increased deer population across the … We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the, For the best site experience please enable JavaScript in your browser settings, Rhododendron: An ecological disaster in Killarney National Park. The park’s oak woods are among the most diverse – and rarest – ecosystems in the country. On the face of it, the method appears to be effective, and O’Toole is proud that his method avoids most collateral damage from the herbicide, and that he has greatly reduced the concentration used in each application. O’Toole continues: “Nothing has matured, and we are going back all the time, catching up all the time. Instead, it guided them to the shore of nearby Lough Leane. This is essential to advocate for biodiversity and to promote innovative ways to demonstrate its benefits to the rural economy.”. The best mountain boots fill up with water before you walk 100m. The central problem is clear and is not disputed. The National Parks and Wildlife Service has pursued a costly programme of clearance and control of reinfestation for many years, and have had some success in controlling the species within these important conservation areas. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber. Management said it could handle this work with its own – much less numerous – staff. A similar method was also used in 2014 to help two walkers who became trapped in a 'treacherous' rhododendron forest between County Waterford and County Tipperary. The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. O’Toole, who does not respond to follow-up questions based on the interviews with his colleagues, also says he would welcome an external review. But their morale is generally very low. From badminton player to prize-winning Nasa scientist. Killarney was declared National Park in 1932 and it has an extention of more than 10000 hectares. Perhaps we need to go back to 2005 to attempt to ascertain why the previously amicable, and highly productive, relationship between the NPWS and Groundwork abruptly broke down, and what this may tell us about the national service tasked with protecting our environment. 2. The Irish Times asked the NPWS for details of O’Toole’s scientific qualifications and training, but this information was not provided. small numbers of flowers have been observed at Killarney in all months of the year. If An Garda was as under-resourced and under-supported as the NPWS, crime would be as rampant as environmental degradation is today. Now, anything short of full domination of once-cleared wood by rhododendron appears to be good enough. They say these checks are vital to catch the fast-growing plants when they are already big enough to find easily but, crucially, before they start flowering: a single rhododendron flower can produce 7,000 seeds. South and west of the town of Killarney in Co. Kerry is an expanse of rugged mountainous country. After all, they are in the hands of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), whose self-declared primary mission is “the conservation of ecosystems to maintain and enhance flora and fauna”. We have no evidence of any of these commitments yet having been fulfilled.”. In Ireland, the Killarney and Glengarriff native oak woodlands have been particularly affected by Rhododendron invasion. Please subscribe to sign in to comment. Cotoneaster microphyllus, Fagus sylvatica, but it is only Rhododendron ponticum which has had any serious impact on the native communities. It swept through the wilder woodlands only after the park was gifted to the State in 1932. Tussocks of moor grass, hidden boulders and bog holes try to twist your ankles at every step after that. Rhododendron in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, photo by Simon Barron BEC Consultants Ltd was commissioned by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to carry out a survey of Rhododendron within and adjacent to selected woodland areas within Killarney National Park. Killarney National Park was chosen as Ireland’s Best Day Out by The Irish Times in 2015, reflecting its well-deserved status at home and abroad for recreation, natural beauty and its bountiful weave of plant and animal life. This service is the whipping boy for everyone from environmental NGOs to farmers, from turf-cutters to hunters. On behalf of Groundwork, however, Bill Quirke responds very sceptically. 'My 20th year teaching - and the most challenging ever' Video, 'My 20th year teaching - and the most challenging ever', Coronavirus: Cases of new variant appear worldwide, Covid: Biden urges Trump to sign coronavirus bill into law, George Blake: Soviet Cold War spy and former MI6 officer dies in Russia, Iran: Climbers die in blizzards and avalanche, Chinese economy to overtake US 'by 2028' due to Covid, Pompeii: Ancient 'fast food' counter to open to the public, Storm Bella: Gusts of more than 80mph recorded in UK. This core Groundwork principal was clearly articulated and endorsed in the rhododendron manual published by the NPWS. Groundwork, formed by budding ecologists and environmental activists, set up workcamps that were soon attracting 100-200 volunteers annually, each working for at least a week, under skilled supervision. "The rhododendron situation in Killarney National Park has become so bad that nothing short of calling in the army is going to put it right," .css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link{color:#3F3F42;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{color:#696969;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{font-weight:bolder;border-bottom:1px solid #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus{border-bottom-color:currentcolor;border-bottom-width:2px;color:#B80000;}@supports (text-underline-offset:0.25em){.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{border-bottom:none;-webkit-text-decoration:underline #BABABA;text-decoration:underline #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-underline-offset:0.25em;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus{-webkit-text-decoration-color:currentcolor;text-decoration-color:currentcolor;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:2px;text-decoration-thickness:2px;color:#B80000;}}Michael Healy-Rae warned the Dáil (Irish parliament) in February. The contention is about how it may be resolved. O’Toole and Cahalane drive me through the park to see vast tracts of mature rhododendron killed by O’Toole’s system. Far from being primitives, Groundwork was consistently led by qualified scientists, several of whom now occupy senior positions in Irish and international conservation organisations. A helicopter and rescue boat were deployed to get the pair out of the forest of giant shrubs. Cases of new Covid variant appear worldwide, Seismic change: How Covid-19 altered world events in 2020. FIE’s Tony Lowes said: “Rhododendron was introduced to ornamental gardens in Ireland in the 18th century but is toxic to mammals. I tell O’Toole and Cahalane that I have recently visited woods that had been maintained completely clear by Groundwork for decades, and which had supposedly been checked by NPWS staff or contractors only months or weeks before my visit. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the parent body of the NPWS, told The Irish Times that “upon consideration of the steps that the department has put in place the EU Commission decided not to pursue these complaints”. The pair, reported by RTE to be from continental Europe, raised the alarm at 2pm yesterday, September 14, after becoming disorientated in Killarney National Park. Unless the systematic sweep system is maintained, Groundwork says, rhododendron will persistently return to cleared woods from dormant seeds, or from seeds blown or carried in from other areas, for decades after the first clearance. Quirke and his colleagues would, however, also welcome an external review, but only if it were truly independent, and included experts who know the Killarney woodlands well. Killarney National Park (Irish: Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne), near the town of Killarney, County Kerry, was the first national park in Ireland, created when the Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932. You might have expected much better care of such invaluable natural landscapes, until you realise that there is no legislation guiding ecological standards or best practice in our national parks. Frape D; Ward A, 1993. None of them could offer any explanation, nor find any documentary record, to show how and why the published park plan and the strategy manual were stillborn. Good says: “We need to do a lot more monitoring… this is not an entirely new strategy for the park, but I think we are looking for an improved strategy, yes.”. Quirke wants something else too, though: he wants to “hold accountable” those responsible for “this public service scandal”. • Rhododendron flowers produce large amounts of pollen and nectar and attract a wide range of insect visitors, including bumble‐bees which are thought to be the main pollinators. Rhododendron. I have interviewed dozens of NPWS staff, over 15 years, and in almost every case their expertise and commitment has been exceptional. Veterinary Record, 132(20):515-516; 1 ref. Until we as a nation care as much about damage to our public landscapes and natural heritage as we do about damage to persons or private property, it may be very hard to reform the NPWS. They were camping in Killarney National Park in County Kerry on Thursday when they became "disorientated". Overall, they say they are committed to science-led eradication in the future. Until public opinion forces Government to take biodiversity and landscape health seriously, the service will be expected to struggle on. It requires a big headcount but can be carried out quite quickly, once the basic rhododendron control has been completed. The rhododendron forest opens out to the Shehy Mountains where you can descend to see the ruins on the shore of Lough Leane. This includes the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain range in Ireland which rise to a height of over 1000 metres. 33. As fellow veteran Therese Higgins, author of the neglected NPWS rhododendron manual puts it, “The issue is not who does the work, or what method is used, but whether the work gets done, and whether the cleared areas stay clear. One must hope that the commitments the NPWS has made to implement an improved rhododendron strategy in Killarney will be honoured. They are handwritten field notes by O’Toole on his own methods, covering five months in 2008-9. NPWS persists with a rhododendron management strategy which, while it sometimes appears to be making great advances, has never been tested by the service’s own scientific staff, let alone to an external review. This ornamental plant – appreciated for its beautiful flowers, and a very effective windbreak – also creates dense thickets, blocking light and preventing the regeneration of native oak forest plants. A founding member of Groundwork, Ciaran O’Keefe, is now one of the four principal officers (directors) at the NPWS, with special responsibility for science, biodiversity and exotic invasive species like rhododendron. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. “The rhododendron situation in Killarney National Park is gone so bad minister, nothing short of calling in the army is going to put it right.” Responding, Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring said his department spent over €2m in Killarney National Park last year. But each time the NPWS failed to make further contact. They wanted to protect the integrity of their previous work by keeping the cleared woods clear. Read about our approach to external linking. Yet in the very year the plan was published, a new administration in the park diverged sharply from previous arrangements with Groundwork. But how this can happen under current NPWS structures remains unclear. Brexit: What are the key points of the deal? The rhododendron strategy in the manual was not adhered to, and nor was the park plan implemented, at least in regard to Groundwork’s involvement. The director of the National Biodiversity Data Centre wrote that we should: “Establish a Government department for biodiversity and rural economy supported by an independent State agency for nature conservation. Killarney National Park is on the brink of ecocide. It is not the first time rescuers have been sent to the forest, which covers about a third of the 26,000 acres park. And an exceptional volunteer resource, which had accumulated remarkable expertise, has been lost. It is a classic example of what ecologists call “invasive alien species”. They say it is a waste of public money, as the rhododendron is already making a comeback. This statement deserves analysis. Perhaps some light is shed by another email later the same month from the senior ranger at the time, now deceased, to Dawson: “I also believe that the morale of our own staff should be our number one priority when this issue [rhododendron eradication] is being considered.”. “Ultimately, the plan is to clear all rhododendron from Killarney National Park. Rhododendron ponticum is a non-native shrub that can grow taller than 25ft (8m) if it is not controlled. Is he to blame if he was given great responsibilities and authority, without the scientific training they surely require? This involves making deep cuts in the stems and injecting the herbicide Roundup. Suspected rhododendron poisoning in dogs. And that might have been had three prominent Groundwork volunteers, local ecologist Bill Quirke and workcamp leaders Una and Trevor Halpin, not taken it upon themselves to continue monitoring sample patches of the woods they had cleared. The abundance of the alien * Present address: Forest and Wildlife Service, Research Branch, 2 Sidmonton Place, Bray, Co. Divisional manager Philip Buckley broadly agrees. They also say they would be happy for Groundwork to return to particular sites, to compare their methods with O’Toole’s (and with other methods) over time. O’Toole is “not concerned with lightly infested peripheral areas”. So it may come as a shock to learn that the jewels in Killarney’s crown, the western woodlands, are now dying on their feet, and that the warnings from Groundwork, the volunteer organisation that pioneered their rescue in the 1980s, have been repeatedly ignored. .css-q4by3k-IconContainer{display:none;height:1em;width:1em;vertical-align:-0.125em;margin-right:0.25em;}playWhat impact has Covid had on global climate? The annual rhododendron management programme is intended to create conditions in … “The reality is that we don’t have scientists directing the management,” O’Keefe says. For one key party to the dispute, what happened in 2005 is very simple. Rhododendron is (1) Rhododendron ponticum was introduced into the Killarney area of S.W. That’s why we treat it. A spokesman for the Irish Coast Guard in Valentia said the tourists' orange tent was spotted from the air, but the aircraft could not reach them in the dense terrain. Killarney’s climate suits it exceptionally well. Published. Gritten RH, 1995. Just one organisation harping and harping on against us, trying to scupper us … it’s sickening.”. One of the world’s oldest oak forests is slowly dying. The US president-elect calls for immediate action as millions of people face losing jobless benefits. Surprising images from inside North Korea, .css-orcmk8-HeadlineContainer{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}Coronavirus: Cases of new variant appear worldwide.css-1dedj2h-Rank{-webkit-align-self:center;-ms-flex-item-align:center;align-self:center;color:#B80000;margin-left:3.125rem;}1, Covid: Biden urges Trump to sign coronavirus bill into law2, George Blake: Soviet Cold War spy and former MI6 officer dies in Russia3, Iran: Climbers die in blizzards and avalanche4, Chinese economy to overtake US 'by 2028' due to Covid5, Pompeii: Ancient 'fast food' counter to open to the public6, Storm Bella: Gusts of more than 80mph recorded in UK7, Brexit: What are the key points of the deal?8, Has Thomas Becket's treasured 'little book' been found?9. The park runs a control programme for the plant and says that "hundreds of thousands of euros are spent each year in the battle to eradicate the highly invasive and destructive rhododendron ponticum". So you might expect that the park’s keystone oak woodlands are under sensitive ecological management, based on the best science available. It’s not a disaster there, not at all. O’Keefe and Good both tell me they accept unreservedly that Groundwork’s annual data since 2013 on the return of rhododendron to these woods is accurate. Neither Good nor O’Keefe can produce any record of independent verification or external review of O’Toole’s methodology over 15 years. And this methodology had been explicitly embraced in the NPWS’s 2005-2009 plan for the park, and in the manual the service still publishes online. O’Toole is unquestionably a dedicated public servant. I can see no way forward as long as NPWS conservation work is not directed by science.”. play'My 20th year teaching - and the most challenging ever' Video'My 20th year teaching - and the most challenging ever'. The terrain is steep and often very tough. This species known as Pacific or Western Rhododendron is only found in two other areas of British Columbia. The nation deserves much better – Daniel Kelly, forestry expert and emeritus fellow in botany at Trinity College Dublin. “What we do have is a system where we employ people who we believe are competent managers, who if they need a scientific opinion… they call for it.”. The two men called Mountain Rescue after wandering lost for hours in Killarney ... rhododendron forest. I recognise and acknowledge the passion and commitment of all involved in the challenge of controlling and eradicating rhodo from the park.”, The following day, however, he wrote to his NPWS colleagues that “We (all three of us – as well as our divisional manager, Philip Buckley) were most upset at comments made by one or more Groundwork representatives and directed primarily at Peter, which we found offensive and most unhelpful.”, How the same meeting could be described by the same person, within 24 hours, as “informative and constructive” and then “offensive and most unhelpful” is hard to understand. This is a very serious allegation which, if accepted by Brussels, would trigger substantial fines on the State. Quirke argues that Groundwork’s methodology, which the NPWS acknowledged as highly successful over a 25-year period, needs no further testing. Small wonder that more than 90 per cent of our nominally protected habitats are already described, by the NPWS itself, as in “bad or inadequate condition”. Twice, over the last two years, I have hiked with Groundwork veterans to different woods they had cleared. The pair were taken on board a Kerry Water Rescue vessel at about 15:40 local time, more than two and a half hours after they first called for help. Taken together, these commitments seem to point to a way forward. But by the late 1970s even Killarney’s remote, and therefore supposedly pristine, western woodlands were effectively “ecological ghosts”. And, contrary to what the department implies, this second complaint remains open, according to Groundwork’s records. Several times these negotiations, the last as recent as 2018, appeared to make good progress. O’Toole, however, argues that he has developed his own successful methodology through trial and error. Video. They give very generously of their time but they do not purport to have any ecological expertise. Senior NPWS management consulted by The Irish Times include the principal officer responsible for science, the divisional manager covering Killarney, and the regional ecologist responsible for the area. And where rhododendron had still not penetrated, excessive grazing by deer and sheep posed, and still poses, a severe secondary threat to natural recovery, gobbling up oak seedlings as fast as they sprang up. Introduction 2.1. Citation: Higgins, G.T. On the contrary, the group is still spoken of by senior NPWS staff with admiration and respect, and the break-up is attributed to regrettable “differences over methodology”. Groundwork cost the park approximately one 10th of that amount annually). But this issue is just one symptom of a national malaise. It’s natural to wonder whether Groundwork had overstepped some boundary, or whether something untoward had come to light that forced the NPWS to distance the park from the group. It has proved an incurable problem in Killarney National Park as it completely smothers the undergrowth and allows for no regrowth, growing up to eight metres (25 feet), towering over other species and blocking out light with their thick, leafy canopy.” He was put in overall charge of rhododendron management at the park in 2005. Citizen environmentalists have been known to become messianic or cultish elsewhere. This position contrasts starkly with the official NPWS response to the Groundwork EU complaint in 2014, where it was baldly stated that “no…reasonable ecological assessment of the situation could conclude that there is a reinfestation taking place in the park”. This raises troubling questions about whether the park’s management structure, and by extension the NPWS, is fit for purpose, at a moment when our natural landscapes across the country are more threatened than ever. Groundwork leaders claim they tried to work with the new managers, despite disagreements about methodology, but they had one red line. O’Keefe and Good both agree that it is an urgent priority in 2019 to remove the plants that the group has geo-tagged, especially where they form “clumps”. Arguably he does not need a scientific background, but the methods of fighting this species – and ensuring the health and future of one of Ireland’s finest forests – must be the best that science can offer, and must be monitored by scientists. Morale is obviously important in any organisation, but should it be a bigger priority than the successful implementation of the organisation’s key responsibilities? 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