New study counts the environmental costs of Japanese knotweed management – Zoo House News
- March 18, 2023
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Research from New Swansea University has examined the long-term environmental impact of various methods used to control Japanese knotweed.
It has been calculated that managing the invasive species costs more than £165million each year in the UK alone. Its presence can affect home buying for households across the country.
This has led to the development of various methods of control, but as sustainability becomes more important it is crucial to understand the impact of these management methods.
A new study led by bioscientist Dr. Sophie Hocking, who examines the full lifecycle and long-term implications of different management approaches, has just been published in the online journal Scientific Reports.
dr Hocking said: “With the current climate crisis and biodiversity crisis, management of invasive species and sustainability have never been more important.
“Both are inextricably linked – we know that invasive species can have significant negative environmental, social and economic impacts and the way we manage these species should mitigate this in a sustainable manner to ensure we do no more harm as useful .
“Although more research has been done on how we can best manage the facility, little is known about how sustainable these approaches are.”
This study builds on previous research that has placed Swansea University at the forefront of expertise and understanding of Japanese knotweed.
Already in 2012, Professor Dan Eastwood and Dr. Dan Jones launched the world’s largest field trial of knotweed control, testing the key physical, chemical and integrated methods used to control the species. The research was conducted in close collaboration with Complete Weed Control Managing Director Ian Graham and Advanced Invasives, a spinout company led by Dr. Jones, performed.
This field study provided valuable information for the work of Dr. crouching Using Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) – a method for assessing the environmental impacts at all stages of the life cycle of a commercial process – to find out the relative environmental impacts of a range of chemical and physico-chemical management methods for knotweed.
Going beyond the focus on the use and end-of-life of these methods, the researchers assessed the environmental impacts of various management methods, including the production of materials and herbicides needed to control knotweed; something that is often overlooked when we evaluate sustainability. For the study, the team selected methods commonly used for knotweed management and used real-world data on time consumption, amount of materials used and economic costs to assess their relative environmental impacts.
Of the methods tested, they found that the simplest approach — glyphosate-based foliar spray control methods — used the fewest materials, had the lowest environmental impact, had the lowest economic cost, and is therefore the most sustainable approach to knotweed control. The findings are significant to those working with or affected by Japanese knotweed on their land
dr Hocking added: “There is a lot of debate these days about the sustainability of herbicides and their impact on the environment and human health. Societal perceptions of how we deal with invasive plants is really important, but we need to root our understanding of sustainability in empirical evidence.
“We hope that this research will contribute to our broader understanding of the sustainability of different approaches in the management of invasive plants and help inform current knotweed management practices.”