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Rare Aquatic Plant Reintroduced

12 July 2012

Most people might associate a zoo with animals and animal conservation but we're also working hard behind-the-scenes to protect and save something else – rare plants...

Horticultural staff here at the zoo are helping to reintroduce a rare aquatic plant back into an area of Lancashire from which it has completely vanished.

Our staff are working with the Canal & River Trust to put the species – known as floating water plantain or luronium natans – back into a stretch of disused canal at Daisy Nook, near Oldham.

Richard Hewitt with Luronium Natans - Chester Zoo

Luronium provides important habitat for many of the UK’s native aquatic plant and insect species but has been in severe decline as a result of exposure to sewage and agriculture, which increases the level of plant nutrients in the water.

Other aquatic plants and algae thrive and ultimately out-compete the floating water plantain.

However, the team has been growing the threatened species in ponds at the zoo for around five years and is now embarking on an important reintroduction programme.

Chester Zoo’s Curator of Horticulture and Botany, Mark Sparrow, said:

“Chester Zoo is very concerned with the conservation of native species, particularly those local to the area.

“So we’ve been working in partnership with the Canal & River Trust to raise awareness of rare water-based plants and the importance of canal habitats in general.

“We’ve been growing plants in behind-the-scenes ponds at the zoo for a number of years and are now providing them to site owners for reintroduction.”

Richard Hewitt and the River and Canal Trust - Chester Zoo

The Canal & River Trusts’ national ecologist Chris John has been advising the zoo on the technical issues involved in propagating the plant.

Mr John said:

“It’s important to have luronium in our canals and rivers as it has been in decline throughout Europe since the turn of the century and many of its natural habitats have been lost.

“It is native only to Europe and our canal network provides one of the most important habitats for it. It’s a native plant that forms part of a natural ecosystem - supporting many other plants and insects.”

 

This is one example of how your support/money is helping us Act for Wildlife - saving plant and, of course, animal species from extinction.

For more on our great conservation work visit www.actforwildlife.org.uk.

 

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