The PCA were invited to give a paper last week at the EMAPi conference in Prague, a biennial research conference on all aspects of invasive weed ecology and management, attended by leading experts/academics from around the world. Our very own Dr Peter Fitzsimons represented the PCA. So, in Peter’s words, ‘what did I learn?’
Are invasive non-native weeds benefitting from urbanisation?
Day 1: Arrive at Prague University of Life Sciences. An impressive ‘green’ campus on the outskirts of the city and settled in to a student dorm – my home for a few days. Just time to get ready for the welcome event in the main lecture theatre. The keynote speaker was Marc Cadotte from Canada who gave a talk around the question “are invasive non-native weeds benefitting from urbanisation?” In his case, this was Toronto and their problem-weed No. 1 is something rather alarmingly called Dog-strangling vine (Vincitoxicum rossicum)! Suffice to say the answer was yes, and in this case V. rossicum was shown to have quite good allelopathic properties (chemical inhibition of other plant’s roots in the soil).
Japanese knotweed inhibits other plants
A huge number of written presentations were available during the evening session (over 90 separate displays). The top ‘poster’ for me was by Katarina Šoln (Slovenia) and colleagues, who had shown that exposing the roots of radish seedlings to Japanese knotweed rhizome extracts inhibited seed germination and growth and this seemed to be due to disruption of cell division. Definitely something to keep an eye on (project phase #2 is underway) and Katarina deservedly won a prize for her work from the event organisers.
Spanish coastal invasion difficult to control
Day 2: A full day of lectures. Highlight for me was a paper from Spain on Carpobrotus (Hottentot Fig) – a coastal invasive which is proving particularly difficult to control for reasons that may be quite familiar to our members. Small sections of propagules get left behind despite well-intentioned local management (even if only 0.1% gets missed that’s enough to ensure re-colonisation in the next 5 years….).
Helicopters used for knotweed?
Later, Peter Raal from the New Zealand Department of Conservation, showed us how to spray ‘wilding’ (invasive non-native) pine trees …. from a helicopter! Not sure it would get past the risk assessment stage here Pete!? On an excursion later a local botanist was pointing out all their local flora plus, of course, invasives (mainly Robinia in their woodlands). But the most excitement was when we found a stand of Japanese knotweed! Even academics can’t fail to be impressed by its growth rate!
Is Butterbur heading our way?
Another chance to see some posters later. This time I found a poster from the French government publicising their new online resource on aquatic invasives (plants and animals) – available in English too! Do have a look to see if you can benefit from their experience and research. It’s quite a magnum opus in two parts with a third in preparation! Here . I know one of our members will want to read the bit on Butterbur, a rare invasive in the UK but considered by the authors to be spreading to Brittany. UK soon?
The risk of future escapees from ornamental gardens
Day 3: More great lectures. I’m getting more from each speaker because after two days I am beginning to understand the terminology a bit better (population dynamics and statistical analysis!). Dr. Tomos Jones from Reading University gave a talk based on their stand at Chelsea Flower Show this year highlighting the risk of future escapees from ornamental gardens and how this could be influenced by global warming.
The PCA takes to the stage at EMAPi2019
Later, we the highlight of the week, as Dr Laura Jones of AECOM gave our presentation “Driving up standards of invasive weed management through training and assessment”. This talk was well received and PCA’s profile was raised with this international audience. Interestingly, whilst a number of other presentations stressed the importance of training, the PCA presentation clearly showed the UK were taking the lead in terms of formal training & qualifications. Laura was approached by delegates from Spain/Portugal, Germany and Poland interested to see how they might learn from the experience.
It’s clear research is key
Time for me to leave but I’ve got pockets-full of business cards and many new friends plus an old friendship re-newed, but that’s a long story! The headline conclusion is that there is a ‘whole world’ of detailed, painstaking research going on all over the world, sometimes on plants we’ve never heard of but the principles always seem familiar. This conference has opened my eyes to the potential benefits of links to these research groups and we hope some of the connections I’ve made will be of long-term benefit to our members and the wider invasive plant management sector.
A thirst for knowledge
The next bout of learning is just around the corner. Have you booked your ticket to the International Invasive Weed Conference 2019 – #IIWC2019? Be part of the conversation on the ‘Challenges – Solutions – Developments’ facing the invasive weed sector.