Arran Footpaths and Forestry have been involved in invasive species removal since 2009. Over the last 10 years we have dealt with different species and environments. We have used a number of different methods. We have also kept up to date with environmental legislation and we have updated staff training and qualifications.
We have been mainly involved in Rhodedendron and Salmonberry clearance for the Forestry Commission Scotland and we have a 4 year contract for the Arran and Galloway regions within the FCS national framework.
We are also heavily involved in the eradication of Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock within areas of native woodland. Again we do this as part of the FCS national framework.
We have also been involved in the removal of Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam.
These species have been our main concern and we are very experienced in their removal. This list is not however exhaustive as the techniques employed can be used to manage other invasive species.
Methods of Removal
There are 5 main methods we use when dealing with species eradication or management. We have the experience to select from the list below the correct method for each specific job.
1 | Hand Pulling
This technique is the least technical but is no less effective. The tiny saplings are pulled out of the earth by hand and placed off the ground on a tree stump so as to prevent the roots reseeding. This is a back breaking exercise where the worker spends most of the day bent double or on their knees.
On Arran we utilised this method on 2 sites, on both sites it was Sitka Spruce that was the invasive species. One was in Merkland wood on a slope near the Merkland burn. We didn’t want to spray the area with chemical because we would kill all vegetation within this large area. It was possible that the area could have been stripped of vegetation subsequently destabilising the embankment. There was also the possibility of chemical run off into the burn.
The second site was a scheduled ancient monument and minimum disturbance was required. Again spraying the ground would kill all vegetation within this protected area. This was not the desired result, so hand pulling was employed.
2 | Spraying bushes with Glyphosate
If the Rhodie bushes are small enough they can be sprayed with a mixture of Glyphosate and Mixture B carried in water. The Glyphosate is a herbicide and kills the plant through absorption. The Mixture B is a glue that bonds the chemical mixture to the plant.
This method is only effective in the summer when the plant is fully active.
The team have to hold a PA1&6 pesticide spraying ticket and it is run by an experienced ganger. They move through the site in an orderly fashion making sure they spray every leaf on every bush. In some cases the bushes are too big for us to reach with our spray packs and lances, we have adopted a method to deal with this. The chainsaw operatives go through the site first and cut routes through the larger bushes giving the spray team access to the entire bush.
Although spraying introduces chemical to the site, it is managed professionally by qualified, experienced personnel. The spraying of bushes can be a very effective means of eradication if done correctly and is a cheaper alternative to cut and burn methods.
3 | Cut and Burn
We have been involved in large scale Rhodedendron eradication on Arran and in Galloway. Large areas of up to 8 hectares completely covered with Rhodedendron bushes more than 3 metres in height have been eradicated.
We have used large teams of 6 cutters and 6 burners before in what was a very labour intensive job. Good communication throughout the team meant the area was managed effectively and safely. We have recently adapted our techniques and brought in machines to accessible areas of the wood. The machine is managed by our Ganger, who is qualified in all aspects of the job.
4 | Stem Injection
The stem injection method can be utilised for a variety of situations. It can be an effective method when it is safe to leave the bush or tree standing.
The most effective use experienced by AFF was in the removal of Rhodedendron bushes along a burn side. A rare fern was identified growing on the embankments of the burn. We could not spray the bushes as this method would kill the fern also. We did not want to cut the bushes either as they were on a steep embankment into the burn. The brash would not be able to be burnt safely on the embankment and complete extraction would not have been cost effective.
Using rope access techniques we were able to access the main stems of the plant and using the latest EcoPlug technology we treated the plants. The EcoPlug were inserted into an exact hole drilled into the stem, when they were tapped in with a hammer. The pellet bursts within the hole but the pellet itself seals the hole containing the chemical within the plant.
5 | Tree Felling and Stacking
We have been involved with tree felling for 10 years now and have been able to learn and adapt to the various implications of the natural environment. There are many factors to consider in the take down, cross cutting and snedding and stacking process.
When felling the trees, some were close to the main road through the Galloway Forest and we had to deal with traffic management. We used a banksman and a simple stop go technique to manage traffic safely through the site.
We also had to be aware of our tree species and identify regeneration of native saplings. This was done before the take down of every tree and the tree was felled in the direction that least effected the native woodland.
The stacking of brash was crucial too. It could not be strewn about the forest floor as this would prevent sunlight getting to any seeds or saplings, thus preventing natural regeneration within the wood. We stacked the brash but were careful not to stack it too high which would give cover to dear implicating dear management programs.