Members of the FoSB Committee met with Barry Yates of the Manager of the very highly regarded SWT Shingle Reserve at Rye Harbour on 28th November with the intent to get advice on future management of invasive plant species on our own LNR of Shoreham Beach.
The principles of management. Invasive plants are those that crowd out rare plants. They have to be controlled to allow a variety of species in any area. If a specific plant is becoming a solid area of monoculture, then the seeds of annual plants cannot land and so have a restricted area to grow.
From our discussions the following relevant actions have been identified:-
- Know what you have with pictures, past records and surveys. We can also make use of Google Maps (history) and the survey work done by the Council if they did any prior to removal of shingle to assess littoral drift. SWT now use drone surveys as well as the ordinary surveys done on foot.
- Map out specific places on the reserve where invasive species are prevalent and rare species are found. Annual species vary where they are found from year to year but we have a good idea where they are recently from the SBRS survey and past flower walks and records.
- Every plant has some value in the scheme of things so there will be knock on effects of intervention. There is the need to balance the good and the harm of every species. Eg Red Valerian hosts butterflies and moths and may shelter plants. So enough has to be left for the butterflies and moths and any patch reduced carefully looked at for any sheltering plants. It is essential to remove Red Valerian that is encroaching on areas where rare plants are known to grow.
- Control Schedule 9 plants, (the toxic weeds), by elimination. Rye SWT use spraying with Roundup under license. They tackle the established plants. We feel that tackling the small plants spreading South at the top of the shingle bank should be continued especially with the reappearance of the three-cornered garlic.
- Actively survey and monitor relevant fauna: Wall and Viviparous Lizards, moths and allied insects all play a part as do the seed eating birds that feed on the beach plants and spread their seed through droppings. FoSB are aware that we need an up to date survey of all of this interaction to support their future management.
So, from our discussions, FoSB will be taking the following steps to better manage the beach:
- Improve Public Education vital to the enterprise. Like us, Rye SWT have problems getting the public to understand that management of the beach flora is vital to preserve rare plants that will otherwise be lost. We will need to produce leaflets and maybe A boards with explanation.
- Continue to manage Red Valerian. FoSB was advised to remove a test area of monoculture Valerian and record how the growth of other plants was affected something which we are already undertaking in the Kings walk area.. This area was carefully chosen after surveying the beach as it had really thick area of Valerian and also being in an area where a plant (Coltsfoot) which had been abundant was not been recently seen. Rye SWT use a ragwort fork which has the tines closer than an ordinary fork. to loosen the shingle. In loose shingle Red Valerian can be pulled up by hand if gentle tugs are made instead of one big pull. Holding on to all of the stems from a single root and gentle tugs which often releases all of the deep root. However, if the plant comes up leaving a bit of root behind, then from this small shoots grow which do not flower the following year. This results in an ongoing annual task which has to be seen as a ten year program to get on top of the problem and then ongoing maintenance from there
- Continue to monitor Silver Ragwort: Although Rye do not suffer Silver Ragwort as we do ,the same principles apply and enough must be left to feed the finches. We know that 30 insects feed on it but we need to know which they are and if they are present on the beach
- Distribute seeds of rarer Shingle plants around the reserve. Giving nature a hand to maintain the variety of species in this context is an ethical thing to do using seeds from other shingle plants on the LNR and scattering them where the test area had been cleared.
- Creating detailed and updated surveys of the shingle plants allowing records to be updated and decisions made on hard data not emotions. FoSB intend to begin drone monitoring of beach plant growth on a macro scale to identify appropriate areas for management and thinning.
It was great to have our present actions confirmed and to have some ideas on how future management of the plant growth of Shoreham Beach LNR may be further enhanced. A big thanks to Barry Yates and the Rye SWT for their support and advice