By Elizabeth Lee
WORK has begun on an important collaborative environmental project involving Leighlinbridge Improvement Group, Bagenalstown Improvement Group and Carlow Tidy Towns. The organisations have come together to tackle an invasive species, Himalayan Balsam (HB), along the River Barrow from Carlow town to Slyguff Lock, south of Bagenalstown. The survey was funded by LAWPRO (Local Authority Waters Programme) under its Community Water Development Fund.
County councillors have also come on board with funding support. Unfortunately, the balsam can currently be found in all sections of the river. The project aims to systematically eradicate HB along this stretch.
Invasive non-native species are the second-biggest threat to biodiversity after habitat destruction. HB has become all-pervasive along the Barrow to the extent that is now poses a serious challenge to the wellbeing of the river system. Its prevalence reduces biodiversity, it results in the reduction of the pollination of native species, and bees prefer to visit HB as it produces large quantities of nectar. It also causes erosion of riverbanks after autumn dieback, fundamentally altering the watercourses and their ecosystems.
The project is a collaboration between three well-established community groups in Co Carlow and represents a significant opportunity to harness the strength and experience of the region’s civic spirit. The removal of HB will have many benefits for biodiversity along the Barrow. Native flora will once again attract pollinators. A balanced ecosystem will provide habitat for animals and food and shade for fish. A healthy Barrow will be there for present and future generations to enjoy in their daily lives. If you would like to get involved in the project, contact the organisations involved.