Invasive Species Week – public awareness & understanding is important!

We celebrate a lot of special days in the calendar year; birthdays, anniversaries, religious observance days etc. Then there came Mothers day and Fathers day and so-on but now the UN has a formal programme of ‘days’ – with today (Friday 20th May) being World Bee Day and next week (22nd) is International Day for Biological diversity..

But what about Invasive Species Week? Well its not a UN-supported event, but definitely has a lot of relevance worldwide and is not purely a UK phenomenon (see below)! As we reach the end of another busy week of events we summarise the PCA’s contribution, (Invasive Species Week Info Hub) and explain why we think it’s important to support the aims and objectives of this regular anniversary bringing focus and attention to all things invasive.

What is Invasive Species Week (ISW)?

ISW is organised by the GB Non-native species secretariat – a Government funded body which co-ordinates many diverse aspects of invasive policy and strategy. ISW is organised every year to raise awareness about invasive species, the threat that they pose, and what can be done to prevent their spread. In America they do something very similar and in Canada too. The UK Invasive Species Week programme is a mixture of events ranging from on-line webinars etc. to live volunteering opportunities (e.g. balsam-bashing is a favourite and, if you are going to do it, now is a good time!).

How does the PCA get involved?

The PCA, as part of its core mission, has a role to raise standards of professionalism within (amongst many sectors) Invasive weed control and in practice this means we devote much attention to education/training and qualifications, and this is not confined to our members – nearly 50% of those attending our training courses are from non-member organisations.

Our Invasive Weed Control Group has been active for 10 years and in that relatively short time, our training programme has expanded rapidly. Currently we offer surveyor-level training courses on Japanese knotweed (plus a linked examination-based professional qualification), Bamboos and Invasive trees and shrubs. For Technicians there is an on-line herbicide awareness/refresher course and modules on Japanese knotweed and Cell burials . Providing these courses is an important way to emphasise the specialist nature of invasive weed control works (from survey through to completion/guarantee) which requires unique knowledge and skills and is relevant to all land-based professionals.

Educate and Entertain

In the course of producing such training courses (and benchmarking best practice for members) it became imperative to publish Technical guidance. Our Technical Document library for Invasive Weed Control contains a number of fairly unique documents in that they are often based on the distilled experience of over 100 specialist contractor/consultant members. Everything we publish is free-to-access and we aim to expand the subject matter continuously (and keep old documents under review to keep them up-to-date!). Recent additions have been documents relating to changes in the way property surveyors assess Japanese knotweed for lending purposes.

We are also increasingly proud of our webinar library and the contribution this can make to general awareness in the public (as oppose to professional) domain. Video content is often deemed to be far more ‘accessible’ than Codes of Practice etc. Again, these are free to access although, for live broadcasts, we do ask folk to register so we can provide links and keep them informed of future learning opportunities.

And then there are these – the Blogs! This is where we try to blur the lines between education and entertainment (you can judge if successfully!) – always topical and sometimes challenging the aim is to make write on important subjects in a way that is relevant to professionals in the sector, but might also grab the attention of others who are less aware of what we do or indeed the whole sphere of Invasive weed management! Absolutely what Invasive Species week is all about – ignorance of the entire concept of the damage caused by what some might otherwise see as ‘attractive’ plants (buddleia and Himalayan balsam come to mind but Japanese knotweed too was planted mainly for its attractive foliage and flowers) is the greatest enemy of us all.

Our members and Social media

Of course the PCA is only a representative organisation and we must applaud the efforts made in support of ISW by our members. Each year that ISW comes around we see more-and-more contributions through platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter/Facebook which means that thousands of people will be seeing posts in their feed this week.

Obviously, we do our bit too! But a special shout-out must go to Jo Mullett of Knotweed Control Swansea and Brian Taylor at The Knotweed Company who both delivered real-time training this week specifically focussed on raising awareness of Invasive species, their identification, ecological impact and Management.

Was it a worthwhile week?

It’s ever so difficult while the world is still re-coiling from Covid and the war in Ukraine to ask our audience to sit-up and take notice of Invasive species. But we think it’s worth it. After all, as we said recently, whatever the future holds, in the end NOTHING is more important than environmental protection (personal opinion) and we are encouraged to see that the legislature is being expanded and toughened to provide incentives for landowners to grasp-the-nettle and get-on with managing the invasive weeds on their land.

It comes naturally to the PCA to step-up and communicate all the reasons why this is important, the best approaches to take and who to engage to make sure the job is done professionally!

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