Excited for another day working on the reserve, I practically run onto site. But then I see the list of jobs and immediately regret my enthusiasm: weeding is at the top, a rather monotonous task.
Having done my fair share of weeding since arriving at Caerlaverock I can certainly say that it isn't my favourite job. But, as a passionate environmentalist, I must put my own opinions aside and realise the importance of weeding manually. Especially because the alternative is using herbicides. Here at the reserve, we aim to minimise the use of resources where possible and one effective way to do this is to stop using these chemicals.
Ed weeding Peter Scott Trail surrounded by trees and a green wheelbarrow
Herbicides have the capacity to move significant distances (via surface runoff and leaching for example) from target areas, thus altering plant communities in unintended parts of the ecosystem. Consequently, there can be serious impacts on ecosystem functioning and biodiversity as food and habitat availability are reduced for species at subsequent levels of the food web.
Dispersal and contamination of waterways by herbicides poses a considerable risk at wetland sites like Caerlaverock where water sources are close by. This can have implications for humans as a species, considering substances from herbicides, like glyphosates from controversial roundup herbicides, (which were deemed as potentially carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015) have been commonly found in drinking water.
The potential impacts of herbicides are extensive and there is a vast amount of research into these effects which I haven't even touched upon. So yes, weeding is time consuming and laborious but considering the environmental consequences of the alternatives it's well worth the extra effort! Here at Caerlaverock all our weeding is done manually due to the incredible work of our volunteers and we can proudly say that no herbicides are used. For example, the entire Peter Scott Trail was weeded recently which significantly widened the path in parts.
Group of volunteers weeding the Peter Scott Trail by Jake Goodwin
Words by Ed (Emily) Dixon
Feature image of Peter Scott Trail with bench and orchard to left by Jake Goodwin