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National sports organization takes major steps to protect local waterways: 'We had the most perfect conditions'

Efforts like the ones initiated by British Canoeing are so important to keep invasive species under some level of control.

Efforts like the ones initiated by British Canoeing are so important to keep invasive species under some level of control.

Photo Credit: iStock

Paddlesports enthusiasts in the United Kingdom have taken advantage of their skills to help in the removal of an invasive species from the River Lee.

Ahead of the 2023 World Slalom Championships, a September canoeing event, British Canoeing enlisted the help of participants, nearby canoe clubs, and local volunteers to help remove floating pennywort from the waterway, which spreads quickly and poses a problem for canoeists. 

In addition to making rivers tough to paddle through, the aquatic plant also puts native species at risk. Its large rounded leaves form dense clusters on the water's surface, restricting access to sunlight for other plants and depleting oxygen levels that are vital for aquatic and semi-aquatic creatures. 

According to British Canoeing's website, 10 events to remove invasive species from Britain's waterways were held in 2023, with 15 metric tons (16.5 U.S. tons) of floating pennywort stripped from the water.

"We had the most perfect conditions to tackle the huge mats of floating pennywort which had grown so quickly," said British canoeing environment officer Pippa Rowlandson of September's efforts. "We revisited Turkey Brook to tidy up some regrowth then down to Mossops Creek to tackle the huge floating mats."

According to the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International, floating pennywort was brought to the UK in the 1980s from the Americas. It was prized for being an ornamental aquatic pond plant, but it quickly grew out of control and reached other water networks. It has been banned from sale since 2014 and costs over $31 million to remove from waterways in the UK and Europe every year.

That's why efforts like the ones initiated by British Canoeing are so important to keep the species under some level of control. The organization has also called on people to report sightings of floating pennywort on the INNS Mapper app.

Creative solutions to tackle invasive species are not unique to the UK, though. In New South Wales, Australia, the annual Namoi Carp Muster is a competition in which participants try to remove as much invasive carp from Narrabri Creek as possible — with prizes on offer for the biggest haul.

Meanwhile, goatscaping is an increasingly popular method in the United States to help remove invasive species from yards. The animals devour as much plant life as they can eat, making it easier for homeowners and tenants to get to work stripping vines and roots to prevent further growth. 

But the issue with floating pennywort just highlights one of the many reasons to ensure that only native plant species are introduced to your green space or ornamental pond. In addition to growing quickly out of control and being difficult to remove, invasives can cause significant harm to the local ecosystem.

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