Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Is this wildlife trust damaging a nature reserve?

When doing the regular research for this blog it is often necessary to dig a bit after finding the initial information. One of the problems you discover is that the hysteria over ragwort has even infected conservation organisations who should know better and you find them saying things that are incorrect. This causes more damage to biodiversity because people believe what they hear and act accordingly. It becomes a vicious circle, breaking which is one of the aims of this blog.

This was the case with a Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust blog which says

"I have been planning how to tackle the ragwort growth, it is not going to be easy as it is further ahead than usual and so many areas cannot be done as there are still nesting birds. Of course there are those that say it should be left as a nectar source and it is true that is it a valuable nectar plant. However it is toxic to stock when dry, although they avoid it when growing as a rule. We have to try and stop it spreading onto our neighbours land and it can also become very dominant on the dry disturbed soils around the old gravel pits, which is undesirable for other reasons."

Now much of this sounds reasonable, but the seasoned expert will notice this line
"We have to try and stop it spreading onto our neighbours (sic) land"

It is difficult to be sure but that sounds like a repeat of the old chestnut of a falsehood that the law on ragwort requires you to prevent the spread of ragwort. Even if it wasn't intended, this loose use of language would only serve to reinforce this common misconception. This then encourages loss of biodiversity on other sites, as people believe they need to comply with non-existent legislation. Like this example.

The thing that is really bad about it though, is that it encourages people to think that ragwort spreads easily. It most certainly does not. The research is very very clear. Most of the seeds fall at the base of the plants and the remainder in all practical terms only go a few yards. See ragwort- how far do the seeds disperse?

The digging around for information only confirms the fear that this Wildlife trust may be being mislead into damaging its own nature reserve. It turns out that they are carrying out ragwort control in a number of places on this massive 500 acre site. It may be necessary and reasonable but what is unnecessary is to harm other people's conservation work by suggesting falsely that ragwort spreads easily.

Perhaps if you are a member of the trust and are reading this you would like to raise it with them? Chapter and verse debunking the myths and providing the science is available on the Ragwort Facts site.
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