Conservation volunteers are one of the keystones for the Alderney Wildlife Trust, many projects, events and activities we carry out every year rely entirely on them. But what are conservation volunteers and why are they so important? The Alderney Conservation Volunteers started in 2001 and is a team of people of all different ages and interests who come every Wednesday and Saturday and help us undertaking a huge range of activities: controlling invasive plants, moving our little herd (four cows weuse to manage vegetation in one of our reserves), clearing footpaths...
The group aims to increase public awareness about Alderney’s nature and educate locals as well as visitors about practical conservation. So anybody who wants to have a great time, learn new skills and help wildlife is welcome! All the activities our volunteers help us with are part of our reserves work programme so our volunteers are true reserves managers.
One of the main activities undertaken by our volunteers is controlling an invasive, non-native plant called Hottentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis). This pretty plant was imported to Europe in the 17th century from South Africa and, although the current UK legislation bans planting or growing this species in the wild, it’s widely used in private gardens and buildings for aesthetic reasons. It has spread from discarded garden material and it quickly forms dense, impenetrable mats that carpet coastal cliffs and dunes, outcompeting native species. Can you think of three things that make a species good at being 'invasive'? Its current distribution in the UK is the coast of south-west England although global warming is assisting its spread into colder areas. In Alderney, it is mainly found along coastal cliffs and dunes. Our way of controlling and stopping its further spread is hand-pulling and subsequent burning. Thanks to this huge effort by our volunteers, some of our coastal habitats are being restored and native species are already growing back where Hottentot Fig has been pulled.
Can you name any other invasive species in the UK?
So now you know how important conservation volunteers are for conserving wildlife, why don’t you join them? Do you know any conservation volunteer groups in your town?
Robert - Conservation Officer AWT