Deer and rhododendron are the biggest challenges Irish native woodland plantations face

Red Deer at Killarney National Park,Kerry,Ireland
Red Deer at Killarney National Park,Kerry,Ireland
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Managing deer and rhododendron are the biggest challenges native woodland plantations face, a leading ecologist has warned.

Independent ecologist Dr Maria Long told delegates at the recent Woodlands of Ireland conference that "more joined-up thinking" is needed when it comes to stopping deers damaging our native woodlands.

"Deer cause the most problems in areas like Wicklow, Killarney and the west of Ireland as they nibble at young trees and damage the regeneration of the forest," she explained.

"More joined-up thinking is needed to prevent deers from doing this."

She said while overgrazing by deers can damage the forest, undergrazing should also be avoided.

"No grazing is not ideal either because grazing helps control weeds and break up dead vegetation. A balance of levels needs to be found," she said.

She added that while most species of rhododendron are harmless to native woodlands, a survey found that half of woodlands contained the rhododendron ponticum variety, which is invasive and makes regeneration of the forest difficult.

In order to curtail rhododendron she advocated that landowners engage in "concerted long-term management".

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"It has to be treated with chemicals," she explained. "It's a very persistent plant and makes so much seeds, it needs to be a year-on-year approach.

"Initial work does help but it has to be continued efforts."

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