Monday, 15 July 2013

9th July: Pirri-pirri bur bashing

Reserve staff and volunteers have begun the removal of Pirri-pirri bur from the sand dunes at Cocklawburn and Cheswick, part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) adjacent to the Reserve. We have been tackling it using garden forks and hand-pulling, which is effective at removing most of the vegetation but is very hard work!

Our volunteer warden showing how easily the burs attach themselves to your clothing!

Reserve staff have been working with Berwick Wildlife Group to map the extent of Pirri-Pirri bur at the Northern edge of the Reserve. Large patches have been found among Cheswick dunes, part of the SSSI that we have a responsibility to manage as it is next to the Lindisfarne NNR - the Reserve reaches the mean high tide mark here.

The grid reference of each patch of Pirri-pirri has been recorded in order to create a map of it's invasion. Reserve staff and volunteers will then remove the Pirri-pirri at each reference point, then next year repeat this to see how effective removal has been (hopefully very much so!). Berwick Wildlife Group have been great in organising these surveys and raising awareness about problems with Pirri-pirri in the local area.

The prickly fruiting bodies of the Pirri-pirri bur - these break down on contact, allowing the seeds to spread further

In addition to the seeds being spread by the prickly burs, the plant also spreads by stolons that grow underground - this can make it hard to remove completely. Pirri-pirri causes artificial dune stabilisation, competes with native sand dune species, invades the botanically rich areas of the dunes in dry seasons, and burs can get tangled in fledgling bird's feathers preventing them from flying.

In addition to hand-pulling the plants, Reserve staff and volunteers are collecting the seeds on the main paths among the dunes of Holy Island to prevent them being spread further into the dunes. You can help us by staying on the paths when visiting the Reserve, and by checking your shoes, clothing and dogs for the burs before leaving.

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