'Rhodo is back from where we cleared it'

Group report the state to EU over resurgence of pest in national park

Dónal Nolan

A voluntary group that helped to clear rhododendron from Killarney National Park in the past have lodged a complaint with the European Commission over what they claim is a failure by the State agencies responsible to effectively tackle the problem.

Groundwork - which claims to have helped in the clearance of rhododendron from up to 40 per cent of the park's precious oakwoods between 1981 and 2009 - lodged the claim last week amid warnings the rhodo is threatening to choke the park of the diverse range of plants and animals for which it is renowned.

Groundwork said it made a 'formal' complaint to the Commission that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht have 'failed to protect the oak woods in Killarney National Park from becoming re-infested with rhododendron ponticum.'

The National Park and Wildlife Service had not responded to the charge by the time of press.

Groundwork is warning that the national park is now on the brink of a major ecological disaster if the problem is not tackled in full, immediately.

"The most biologically rich areas of the Killarney Oak woods are now significantly and rapidly deteriorating, and no management plans have been implemented to address the problem. We believe this constitutes a breach of Articles 6(1) & 6(2) of the Habitats Directive."

The group says it queried the NPWS approach to the management of the rhodo problem as early as 2005, saying the invasive species - which chokes biodiversity and prevents the regeneration of native flora - is back on the rise and fast:" Monitoring of the Killarney Oak woods by Groundwork since 2013 has produced abundant photographic evidence that seed production has resumed in all of these woodlands and that they have now reverted to uncleared status."