Updated: Oct 10, 2021
So what is Spartina, this invasive species that people say will lay waste to the whole of the Wirral coast? Hoylake Beach Community has been researching.
Spartina first appeared on Wirral shores in the Parkgate area in the first third of the twentieth century. This followed its purposeful introduction to geographically nearby Connah’s Quay in 1928. After it’s introduction, Spartina spread rapidly throughout the area, stabilising the sand and silt resulting in salt marsh production in the Parkgate area and beyond.
Spartina spread was so rapid and successful that Spartina induced salt marsh now covers more than one hundred square kilometres of the Dee estuary, and is advancing further afield on a daily basis.
Spartina is also so successful at outpacing the growth of other plants, that it is known to strangle the growth of other plants in any area, thus if Spartina is allowed to grow unchecked in any wilding experiment, possible small initial gains in the biodiversity of flora would soon be replaced by a single lawn of Spartina, established at the expense of other species, thus actually decreasing biodiversity, the opposite of what was intended.
Unchecked there appears to be no reason why Spartina will not continue its inexorable spread from Parkgate round the rest of the North Wirral shoreline, destroying any fragile ecosystems in its path. Indeed, since the cessation of raking of Hoylake beach, resulting in the removal of the ‘Spartina fire break’, stopping progression of Spartina further round the coast, Spartina is now common as a monoculture in Meols spreading past Dove Point, and is rapidly advancing towards Moreton.
Spartina Anglica or chord grass is a common plant species found on the Dee estuary and now further afield on the North Wirral shoreline.
The Spartina released in Connah’s Quay, and subsequently invaded the Parkgate area of Wirral, was a hybrid variety, man made by crossing British and American varieties, and, because of the distance between Britain and America, would never have developed naturally. The upshot of this development is this variety of Spartina is totally alien to Wirral, and has no natural habitats anywhere in the world.
Other uses of Spartina, include land stabilisation prior to development.
Wirral Council may be choosing not to respond to the Spartina growth as it's up to them to ask Natural England about permission for patches of single species. Natural England is an advisory and regulatorily organisation and recommends natural development but it does give scope for asking for permission.
Currently no full raking of large areas of the beach is advised until the study is completed.
This is taking way too long!
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