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A Biodiversity Week update on Killarney National Park

I couldn't think of a better way to kick off #BiodiversityWeek2023 than with a 'flying' visit to Killarney National Park to get an overview - quite literally! - of the amazing work being done by our National Parks and Wildlife Service to restore and conserve nature in one of the most breath-taking places in Ireland.

After launching National Biodiversity Week on the picturesque pier in Kenmare, we got on the road to Killarney, where I was met by the Director of Scientific Advice and Research and the park’s dedicated senior management team, which was put in place following the review of the NPWS that I commissioned in 2021. Over the next few hours, on foot and by air, we toured the national park and I was given a comprehensive update on how the team is addressing the main pressures on biodiversity. Perhaps one of the most visible of these pressures (and one of the most talked about) is the impact of invasive species, and I I wanted to share some of the work that's underway to tackle invasive rhododendron - a major threat to the biodiversity of this special place.

The new Park-wide Rhodo Eradication Plan is the product of two years' work with a team of consultants, defining systems, methods and approaches for long-term management. It's currently being peer-reviewed and is due for publication this Autumn. The Plan is underpinned by a new GIS monitoring system that provides a "living dataset" to prioritise and target clearance works. Staff and contractors are currently mapping the status of rhodo infestations across the Park's 53 zones: 12 are completed, 10 more are underway, and over the past six months, +1,000 acres of old oak woodland have been cleared of rhododendron regrowth as part of a follow-up after initial clearance. Another large area is set to be eradicated later this year.

The GIS monitoring system in action, and Rhododendron Eradication Plan results.

This strategic, data-led approach to the long-term management of rhododendron is extremely positive news for Killarney, and for the myriad species that call this place home. As

the Irish Independent observed this weekend, tackling invasive rhododendron is a war and we're determined to win.

A bird's eye view of Killarney National Park

At 26,000 acres, it’s hard to overstate the scale of Killarney National Park, or the diversity of habitats it holds - woodlands (old sessile oak, yew, and wet alluvial), pristine rivers, wet and dry heath, blanket bog, species-rich grasslands and of course the famous lakes. And it’s also hard to overstate just how popular it is for visitors: a whopping 1.7 MILLION people visit every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. My visit left me deeply impressed, as always, by the tireless work of our NPWS staff, and I feel more hopeful than ever for the future of this iconic and precious place.


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