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Weevils Take on ‘Azolla the Hun’ in Battle for the Ponds
Friday 5th August, 2005

Minute plant-eating bugs that chomp their way through a deadly species of water fern are the latest weapon in a council plan to save a park’s ponds.

In what may be one of the first experiments of its kind in the country, hundreds of 2mm long weevils have been introduced in two ponds at Golborne Park which are currently under threat from an invasive water fern know as Azolla filiculoides.

Work to transform the park is being carried out by Wigan Council and English Nature as part of the council’s Transforming Your Space initiative.

The Azolla fern is one of the most invasive water plants in the UK today, with a remarkable ability to multiply. Its fronds grow rapidly, blocking out the light and killing any other aquatic life.

The wily weevils feed on the Azolla plant and no others, and have been used successfully in other countries as an environmentally friendly means of biological control to destroy the weeds.

Wigan Council’s Andrea Marshall, community development worker for the Transforming Your Space project, said:

“This is one very effective part of the work we’re doing with English Nature and the Greater Manchester Ecology Unit to encourage wildlife to thrive in Golborne Park’s ponds.

“It’s something that is innovative and we don’t know of many other places where it’s being tried.

“We are also removing the constant rubbish, including shopping trolleys and old kitchen appliances, and improving the access to the ponds with new walkways. The entrances into the park are being made more secure and we will be resurfacing paths and including new fences and gates.”

The park will also gain a new educational pond designed by English Nature. The existing ponds do not have shallow enough water to encourage a variety of invertebrates, but the new pond will encourage wildlife and be available for pond-dipping by schools.

Work on the £30,000 project started in January and is being funded by the Big Lottery Fund, NW Coalfield Communities regeneration programme, Golborne Community Forum and Wigan Council.

The Transforming Your Space initiative is intended to pay for environmental improvements in areas of the borough that have so far missed out on major lottery funding. Andrea added:

“We are constantly looking for more funding and would like local businesses to help. We want the schools to be an active part in the process and hope to encourage them to use the park and enjoy their local heritage. Enthusiastic members of the community can enjoy activities such as pond clearance, tree planting and habitat surveys plus much more.”

Golborne Park was created as part of the reclamation of the town’s colliery, which closed in 1989. Anyone interested in helping with the work, or wanting to know more about the project can contact Andrea Marshall on (01942) 488021 or email a.marshall@wiganmbc.gov.uk.

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