An environmental scheme is on course to eradicate invasive rhododendron from the majority of the New Forest by the end of the decade to benefit native species.
Although famous for its beautiful flowers during spring, rhododendron can grow many metres tall, allowing very little light to penetrate through its thick canopy. This has been shown to reduce the numbers of earthworms, birds and plants in a site, leading to a reduction in the biodiversity of the area.
In the New Forest the fightback is on, with a project to remove this beautiful bully from the 26,000 hectares of Forestry Commission managed land in the National Park making significant inroads.
In the last year rhododendron was cleared by the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme from 56 hectares (73 football pitches) at sites near Ashurst, Dibden, Godshill and others. This brings the total area of non-native scrub removed since 2013 to over 100 hectare s (130 football pitches). By 2020 Forestry Commission land in the New Forest should be clear of all significant areas of rhododendron.
Removal of non-native shrubs, including rhododendron, is being funded by the New Forest HLS Scheme, a 10-year agreement with Natural England that is held by the Verderers of the New Forest. The scheme is managed by them in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.
Bruce Rothnie, Forestry Commission Deputy Surveyor, said: ‘Rhododendron bushes have beautiful blooms and undoubtedly bring great joy to gardeners throughout the UK. But in the wider countryside these plants are extremely invasive and if left to spread in a natural setting they can have a drastic impact by shading out our native plant life.
‘This is why the Forestry Commission is working to rid the Forest of this beautiful bully, by cutting and burning bushes each winter as part of the HLS scheme. We hope that our concerted efforts will mean that by 2020 invasive rhododendron will have been all but eliminated, protecting the New Forest’s internationally important habitats for the future.’
To find out more about the benefits of rhododendron clearance in the New Forest visit Rhododendron control
Notes to Photo Editor:
A site cleared of rhododendron near Hale in the New Forest
Notes to Editor:
1. The role of the Verderers of the New Forest is to protect and administer the New Forest’s unique agricultural commoning practices; to conserve its traditional landscape, wildlife and aesthetic character, including its flora and fauna, peacefulness, natural beauty and cultural heritage; and to safeguard a viable future for commoning. www.verderers.org.uk
2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. www.forestry.gov.uk/england-about-us
England’s Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission. www.forestry.gov.uk/englandsforests
For more information, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest
3. Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public. www.naturalengland.org.uk
4. The Environmental Stewardship Scheme, of which HLS is one strand, is administered by Natural England, on behalf of Defra, and funds farmers and land managers throughout England to deliver effective environmental management on their land.
The objectives of Environmental Stewardship are to:
- Maintain and enhance landscape quality and character
- Protect the historic environment and natural resources
- Conserve biodiversity.
- Promote public access and understanding of the countryside
The ES scheme is now closed to new applicants and has now been succeeded by the Countryside Stewardship scheme
5. The New Forest National Park Authority works with partners to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities. It also has a duty to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park. www.newforestnpa.gov.uk
Matt Stroud, Engagement and Interpretation Officer, New Forest HLS Scheme
Tel: 01590 646650