Volunteers removed invasive plants. This way they helped a unique nature reserve

2023 - 05 - 26

Today and in past days, volunteers were removing the harmful invasive plant many-leaved lupine, also known as the large-leaved lupine and big-leaved lupine, in the large herbivore reserve in the former military training area of Milovice near Prague and in its surroundings.   This non-native species has been spreading in many areas of Europe and pushing local flower species out of the countryside. It forms dense closed stands, in which native species cannot establish themselves. In addition, it enriches the soil with nitrogen, thus aiding an increase in the numbers of weeds such as nettles and docks and sorrels.

“The lupine has been spreading to the large herbivore reserve from surrounding plots of land, where no one tackles it. Although we have been getting rid of the lupine in the reserve for several years now, it is on the increase due to its continuous spread from the surroundings. That’s why this year we also focused on the immediate surrounding of the reserve so as to curb the main source from which the lupine spreads,” said Dalibor Dostal, director of the conservation organisation European Wildlife, which founded the large herbivore reserve in cooperation with scientists in 2015.

The volunteers equipped with spades grubbed out the lupine together with its roots. “The lupine is a perennial plant. This means merely tearing off the flower is not enough because it would grow from the roots next year again. However, even tearing off the flower is a certain preventive measure for this species as it will prevent it from maturing and spreading the seeds, which this plant can produce a huge amount,” added Dalibor Dostal.

The conservationists would not be able handle the struggle against the unwelcome intruder without the help of volunteers. “Every year our company allows its employees to pursue volunteering activities in organisations according to their choice. Just as last year, this year we chose the large herbivore reserve which was set up in the former military training area in Milovice. We view this project as a unique landscape-forming achievement, which involves not only the breeding back of the aurochs and expanding herds of bison and horses but, thanks to grazing on stretches of land in this traditional way, rare plant and insect species also succeed in establishing themselves there. This is a lovely example of achieving the equilibrium in nature in a natural way, and we are pleased to be at least a small part of it,” explained Alena Kunzfeldova from Beckman Coulter, the company from which the volunteers arrived in the past days. Their work was followed up by volunteers from Takeda today.

“We couldn’t handle a number of activities without the help of volunteers. Since the foundation of the reserve, they have been helping us clean up illegal dumping sites and, since last year, they have also got involved in the fight against invasive plants. Students of the Czech University of Life Sciences helped remove the invasive plant Canadian goldenrod last year, while the volunteer group focused on the lupine for the first time this year.

Large herbivores provide for virtually all the necessary management activities in the reserve, starting from grazing on aggressive grasses via disturbing and stripping off the turf up to maintaining the pools. The only thing where their activity needs to be completed is the removal of damage caused by humans. Besides removing illegal dumping sites and remains of army operations, this also includes the elimination of invasive species that have been introduced to European nature by humans from other continents, and slowing down the expansion of bushes that are spreading due to climate change, and a rise in the concentration of atmospheric nitrogen generated by industry, power engineering and traffic.

The many-leaved lupine is native to North America, where it grows from southern Alaska all the way to California. It is one of the most dangerous invasive species in Europe. Animals on pastures avoid it as it is toxic. “In addition to getting rid of the lupine in the countryside, it is necessary to make sure that this harmful species doesn’t spread further into open landscape. Therefore, similarly as with other invasive species, there should be a ban on selling it in garden centres and growing it in gardens, from which it spreads to nature,” stated Dalibor Dostal. The lupine used to be sown in the past by gamekeepers as a fodder for animals or by road administrators to reinforce road and railway embankments.

In the large ungulate reserve and its surroundings, the conservationists focus mainly on getting rid of four species of invasive plants: besides the many-leaved lupine and Canadian goldenrod, these are also the woody plants locust and ash-leaved maple. “Suppressing invasive species is the most important task of the conservationists and owners of land in the area of the reserve and its closest vicinity”, concluded Dalibor Dostal.

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