Killarney National Park under threat

Glena, KIllarney National Park
Extensive Rhododendron growth on the lake shore at Glena, Lower Lake, Killarney

At the end of 2016 the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) called for Killarney National Park’s designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve to be withdrawn. This call was backed up by the leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan. Both IWT and the Green Party cite mismanagement of the park, overgrazing by deer and the threat that invasive species including Rhododendron poses to the national park as being key concerns.

Killarney National Park is without a doubt the jewel in the crown of tourism in Kerry, perhaps even tourism in Ireland and is known worldwide for its unique and precious habitats and species. Extensive, mature oak woodlands, yew forests, large stands of holly and the lakes play host to our red deer, wild trout and salmon, biologically significant populations of arbutus, and the Killarney fern and Killarney shad.

Rhododendron ponticum on the other hand is a nasty, insidious plant, boasting pretty flowers and shiny leaves much beloved by the Victorians. Since it’s arrival in Killarney, it has spread throughout the park. It’s thick growth creates a dense canopy of leaves that can stop other plants from growing and stops these plants and associated animals from thriving, upsetting the natural ecosystem.

Hard work by the staff and volunteers at Killarney National Park can only do so much. The spread of Rhododendron is a significant problem that requires significant resources to tackle it. A trip through the park will show the extent of the problem. Our woodlands are being taken over and unless a serious effort is made to tackle the problem, our national park is under threat. With tourism accounting for a significant portion of the economy of Kerry and particularly Killarney, it behoves us to take better care of this unique resource, that has been at the heart of our town and tourism industry for years. Perhaps this call by the IWT will serve as a wake up call for the powers that be and funding can be found to tackle this problem.

In the meantime, maybe some of our politicians might sit up and take note. It would be some vote getter and a great legacy to boot, to be the man or woman who sorted out these problems and helped save Killarney National Park.

Dinis, Killarney National Park, Rhododendron
Rhododendron colonising a stand of holly on the road to Dinis in the Killarney National Park

5 thoughts on “Killarney National Park under threat”

  1. I think the main problem with the park is lack of resources. The published figures in the Examiner of 700,000 euro over five years is a pittance.

    I agree. It would be good to see where that money has been spent and if any progress made can be quantified.

    I still believe that science can find an answer to this infestation. It requires a serious investment in research. I’m not up to speed with the latest reserch in this field, but one would suspect with recent advances in genetics, biotechnology and synthetic biology that a targeted chemical or biological control could be developed to eradicate the plants with an aerial application.

    Then a follow up programme on the ground to clear the area and reintroduce native species.

    Don’t know how realistic this is, but from my point of view it seems to make sense. Problem is who will pay for it.

  2. Two years of regeneration can lead to a 75% increase in species diversity. there is a lack of detailed reporting on behalf of the park to the public about their strategy and constraints in managing this progressive problem. there are plenty of similar surveys going on around the world where comparisons can be made new approach adopted .

  3. where does the Killarney National Park print its results and methods of restoration and regeneration of areas under threat or overgrown with invasive species?
    Natural regeneration can be encouraged through proactive management when repainting of native species is included. The regeneration of rhododendron on sites can be prevented.

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