Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides) on the Witham catchment is a big problem for local river users and wildlife. It blocks waterways restricting access and reduces suitable habitat for freshwater species, negatively impacting local biodiversity. It thrives in slow moving watercourses, which allows it to easily settle in the river margins and develop into large floating mats.
Aware of the problem, the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust and Environment Agency have been working together to deliver an eradication programme, using specialist contractors. After completing a catchment survey in April this year to see the extent of the issue, Lions Environmental have been delivering a treatment plan covering an extensive length of the catchment.
Fortunately, over the last couple of years, this work has resulted in a decline in the number of patches located and treated, with our most recent report producing evidence of an 80% reduction on the overall biomass of the plant. However, the prolific nature of Floating Pennywort means the job is far from done. Even if a very small piece of the root was missed, it could regrow into a large floating matt, so care and precision when removing it is essential.
While this work is crucial to gaining control of this invasive species, Lincolnshire Rivers Trust recognize that it is important to raise awareness amongst the wider community and river users, to prevent further spread and to enable early identification. The Trust is therefore keen to support the work of RiverCare, a volunteer programme delivered by Keep Britain Tidy and Anglian Water, who have developed the Pennywort Alert project. Through funding from the Cambridge Community Foundation, the project aims to tackle Floating Pennywort through supporting paddle, boating, angling and community clubs to confidently survey, identify, report and remove the species.
Through this they have developed a good relationship with the Lincoln Canoe Club, who are assisting them with the practical aspects of removing the plant, using canoes and kayaks.
Chantelle Grundy, Access and Environment Officer at British Canoeing said, ‘It’s fantastic to see volunteers from Lincoln Canoe Club working with local partners to plan a programme for removing the highly invasive, non-native species, Floating Pennywort on their local waters, whilst also raising awareness of invasive non-native species within their community.’
Phil Swales, club volunteer of Lincoln Canoe Club said, ‘We have an enthusiastic group of volunteers committed to protecting the places we paddle. It’s great to be working in partnership with Lincolnshire Rivers Trust and RiverCare to agree a programme of Floating Pennywort monitoring and removal for the River Witham. In our first club session we removed more than 9 large buckets worth, and we can really see the difference already.’
Paige Donnelly, Project Officer at the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust attended their first club session in August and said ‘It was great to attend the Pennywort Alert Removal event in partnership with the Lincoln Canoe Club, everyone was really welcoming, and I had a great time meeting people who share a love and passion for our rivers. I was initially impressed with the idea as a way to educate volunteers and felt that the event was successful, we filled up the buckets we had and identified the extent of the problem on the stretch that we visited.
I have always felt you need to be on the river to get a real perspective of how bad the problem is, only when you get up close to it, and attempt to remove it, do you see how difficult the work is. It also gives you an advantage at spotting it when it’s in small patches, as it can hide amongst the vegetation, and catching it before it turns into a large floating mat really helps keep control of it. I am keen to work with RiverCare, the Lincoln Canoe Club and other potential parties on this project and going forward we will be looking at ways to work together to monitor and manage the species.’
The more people, clubs and organisations we actively engage in Floating Pennywort surveillance, the higher the chances of success. If you would like to get involved and help to save your local river from floating pennywort, email firstname.lastname@example.org , or visit http://www.rivercare.org.uk to find out more.