Sea Buckthorn at Murlough
We're 2 years into a 5 year project to remove much of the invasive sea buckthorn at Murlough. Partially funded by NIEA, we're on track to remove 4 hectares of the stuff over the next few years.
The sea buckthorn plant is known for its brightly-coloured berries, giving early winter a splash of bright orange. Used both medicinally and cosmetically, the berries are edible and reagarded as a superfood due to their rich nutritional content.
Not native to Ireland, the plant was introduced to Murlough by the Downshire family in the 1890s to help stabilise the dunes. Its fast growing root system holds the dunes in place and is often used for anti-desertification purposes. It grows voraciously, spreading quickly even in poor soil, and grows especially well in coastal environments like Murlough.
Although it has served its intended purpose, as a non-native plant it hinders the natural ebb and flow of the sand. During storms it can lead to large swathes of the dune being washed away leaving behind a sheer cliff rather than a smooth slope. It grows in a tough, thorny thicket and prevents any native plants from surviving underneath.
The only plant which survives the shady conditions at Murlough is sycamore, which in turn grows quickly and shades out the sea buckthorn. Sycamore woodland now stands where once had been sand dune.
Our five year project is now heading into its third year. Partially funded by NIEA and with lots of hard work by the team, we have cleared vast amounts of the plant. The work takes place mostly during the winter before bird nesting season, and any regrowth is carefully monitored throughout the year.
The project has opened up new sections of the beach and we hope it will encourage the natural “yellow dune” to flourish and the return of our special native habitat to these areas.