Eradication of Rhododendron ponticum in Nant Gwynant.
Following the completion of the Rhododendron in Snowdonia and a strategy for its control in 2008, Snowdonia National Park Authority has been leading the way in controlling the spread of the invasive plant within the region. The latest phase of this on-going project is an ambitious plan to eradicate Rhododendron ponticum from the valley leading from Nant Gwynant to the east through to Beddgelert to the west. This area is considered to be one of the main strongholds for the invasive plant in Snowdonia, and provides a vast source of seed, thus facilitating the spread of the plant to the surrounding countryside such as the particularly fragile area of common land forming the Eryri Special Area of Conservation (SAC) to the east.
In partnership with other organisations, groups and private landowners, work on controlling the plant began in 2012, with the project due to last a minimum of 5 years. Stakeholders in the project include Natural Resources Wales, the National Trust and Gwynedd County Council, as well as several voluntary groups and individual landowners, the vast majority whom are highly supportive of the work. To date (Autumn 2013), an estimated 280ha has been treated, using a range of methods including stem injection, spraying and cutting and burning. The work has been undertaken by local contractors, ensuring that funding is pumped back into the local economy.
Rhododendron ponticum, although attractive when in bloom, has very little associated wildlife, and will in most cases out-compete native species, thus becoming detrimental to natural habitats and ecosystems. In addition, evidence suggests that climate change may facilitate its spread to higher altitudes, thus increasing its threat to mountain habitats, as well as increasing seed survival rates.
It is hoped that by eradicating the invasive plant from the area, native wildlife will once again be able to flourish in the valley, much of which is protected under European or domestic legislation. Designations found in close vicinity to the valley include the Meirionydd Oakwoods and Bat Sites SAC, Coedydd Nant Gwynant Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Coedydd Beddgelert a Cheunant SSSI and Eryri/Snowdonia SAC and SSSI.
In addition to the work undertaken in Nant Gwynant and Beddgelert, smaller projects have previously been completed, or are currently being undertaken, throughout Snowdonia. These include:
South side of Mawddach Estuary
The aim is to clear all significant areas of rhododendron between Friog and Penmaenpool. This work complements work already done in this area by the Park Authority in their own woodland at Abergwynant and by Natural Resources Wales at Coed y Garth.
Several plantations and native woodlands were planted with Rhododendron by a local gamekeeper in the early twentieth century. Seeds have dispersed from these areas and there are now areas with well established bushes over a kilometre away. The hills to the north and east above Llanymawddwy are part of the heather moorland of the Berwyn. Occasional Rhododendron plants have appeared in the moorland and there was considerable concern that this heralded the beginning of a wholesale invasion.