It is more than three years since I published this article. Sadly, despite the much trumpeted 'reform' of the National Parks and Wildlife Service undertaken by Green Party Minister Malcolm Noonan, there is no sign that the dysfunctional and ecologically disastrous management of the oakwoods in Killarney National Park is going to be tackled. I would dearly love to be proved wrong about this...
The great rhododendron disaster has taken place while Killarney is in the hands of the Irish nation. The nation deserves much better – Daniel Kelly, forestry expert and emeritus fellow in botany at Trinity College Dublin
Killarney National Park was chosen as Ireland's Best Day Out by The Irish Times in 2015, reflecting its well-deserved status at home and abroad for recreation, natural beauty and its bountiful weave of plant and animal life.
So you might expect that the park’s keystone oak woodlands are under sensitive ecological management, based on the best science available. After all, they are in the hands of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), whose self-declared primary mission is “the conservation of ecosystems to maintain and enhance flora and fauna”.
The jewels in Killarney's crown, the western woodlands, are now dying on their feet, and warnings from the group that pioneered their rescue in the 1980s have been ignored
So it may come as a shock to learn that the jewels in Killarney’s crown, the western woodlands, are now dying on their feet, and that the warnings from Groundwork, the volunteer organisation that pioneered their rescue in the 1980s, have been repeatedly ignored.
These oak woods are the nearest thing we have to the ancient forests that once blanketed this island, but infestation by rhododendron now threatens their future, two decades after they were completely cleared of the invasive plant.
NPWS persists with a rhododendron management strategy which, while it sometimes appears to be making great advances, has never been tested by the service’s own scientific staff, let alone to an external review. And an exceptional volunteer resource, which had accumulated remarkable expertise, has been lost.
This raises troubling questions about whether the park’s management structure, and by extension the NPWS, is fit for purpose, at a moment when our natural landscapes across the country are more threatened than ever.
You can read the whole article here
Photo above shows one of the many flowering rhododendrons in Eamonn's Wood, Killarney National Park, a site formerly cleared by Groundwork. Credit: Bill Quirke/Groundwork.
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