+353 1 450 8548 tdonovan@invas.ie
The first Dodder Gathering event

The first Dodder Gathering event


The Dodder Gathering

Why not head along to the Dodder gathering this weekend (April 1st and 2nd) at The Hive, Herbert Park. The event is a fun, free and educational way to enjoy the river Dodder and all it has to offer. INVAS Biosecurity will be on hand to answer any questions you may have regarding invasive species and their impacts on the Dodder catchment. There will be a wide range of expertise with Birdwatch Ireland, the Irish Wildlife Trust , An Taisce, the Water and Communities Office and the Herpetological Society of Ireland in attendance along with several other groups on Saturday. There will be activities, displays and talks on throughout the two days providing hours of excitement and information.


Prof. Joe Caffrey speaks about Japanese knotweed on RTE Radio 1

Prof. Joe Caffrey speaks about Japanese knotweed on RTE Radio 1

Invasive Species in Ireland

Listen to our very own Prof. Joe Caffrey (@INVASBio) talking about the impacts of Japanese knotweed and other invasive species on Drivetime (@RTERadio1) last week 9th March. Just click on the link below and skip forward to Joes’ interview at 02:20:52.




japanese knotweed on private property

Japanese knotweed on private property

Out of control – the vital role of farmers in halting invasive plants Farmers have a vital role to play in halting the march of invasive plant species which can destroy waterways and property

Out of control – the vital role of farmers in halting invasive plants Farmers have a vital role to play in halting the march of invasive plant species which can destroy waterways and property

Prof. Joe Caffrey featured in the Irish Independent (March 2017)


They pose a massive threat to health, ecosystems, property and crops but so far, there has been little by way of a concerted effort to tackle the scourge of harmful invasive plant species.


Introduced from abroad, often for their aesthetic qualities, there are currently about 340 different species growing in and around Irish waterways, hedgerows, parkland, forestry and farmland – and about 60 of these are deemed to be harmful. Plants like Japanese knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam are the most common of invasive species on Irish farmland and unless managed effectively, are a ticking time bomb that could end up costing millions annually. Prof Joe Caffrey is a world-recognised expert on invasive species and a director with INVAS Biosecurity, an Irish company that specialises in the control and maintenance of invasive species on land and water.

The lecturer with the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University and a former senior scientist with Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), warns the problem is growing but the public is largely unaware of it. “While I was in IFI, I headed up an invasive species section. It was meant to be only a relatively small section of my work but it ended up being a full-time commitment,” says Prof Caffrey, who has devoted over 20 years of his career to working on invasive species.


Professor Joe Caffrey
Professor Joe Caffrey

“The problem is increasing year on year. The numbers of species are continuing to increase and the impact that they’re having is also increasing.”


He defines invasive species as non-native plant or animal species that are harmful, either to the economy, to human health or to the environment. A study by the National Biodiversity Data Centre identified around 340 potentially damaging species in marine, terrestrial and freshwater habitats. Further studies identify 60 ‘High Impact’ invasive species that have the potential to cause significant damage. “Realistically, we’re talking about 60 or so species but there is very little awareness about them,” he says. “One of the big questions we have is how do we get this information across to the person on the ground, who, inadvertently, is the one spreading them.”

The species that have gained the most profile on Irish farmland are Japanese knotweed, Giant Hogweed and the Himalayan Balsam.”We refer to Japanese knotweed but there are actually four species of knotweeds and all are damaging,” he says. The plant was first introduced to Ireland from England about 100 years ago having been brought there from Japan. One of the reasons it became so popular was because it’s an ornamental plant that fills vacant niches very quickly.It spreads by underground rhizomes, the technical name for the part of the plant below ground that acts as a root. “The rhizomes in Japanese knotweed are very peculiar in that they grow extremely rapidly and can be seven metres from the last leaf that’s overground. “These rhizomes are very strong and woody and known to cause damage to foundations, particularly where you have damaged foundations to begin with, the rhizomes will get into the crack and grow through that crack and expand.”We’ve seen it bring down walls, growing up through tarmac and potentially causing damage to property.”


A Welsh homeowner recently successfully sued Network Rail for damage caused by Japanese knotweed to the foundations of his house and the devaluation of his property.


Prof Caffrey believes this ruling, is going to have big ramifications. “I travel the country a lot and there’s a tremendous amount of Japanese knotweed growing right beside houses. “A very small fragment of rhizome, as little as a gramme, is capable of creating a new population. “When landowners, the Office of Public Works (OPW) or those working in construction on the roads are moving topsoil, if there’s any Japanese knotweed in that topsoil, even very small fragments will create new populations. “We know farmers move quite a bit of soil but this can be spread in the mud on the wheels of a tractor from one location to another. “Increasingly now, we’re seeing knotweed growing where a new house has been constructed and topsoil has been brought in and nobody realises.” The movement of topsoil is the foremost mechanism of spread but it can spread as quickly on the tyres of a tractor, in tracking machinery or even under a Wellington boot. Prof Caffrey urges farmers to seek professional advice if the plant is present on their land, as control at the earliest possible stage is the best option.


“Cutting is the worst thing you could do because this will cause fragmentation and all you’re doing is removing the aboveground part but the rhizomes underneath, the most infectious part, remain.


“Work on this plant should always be overseen by a competent professional. You need to draw up a management plan because it’s going to take two or three or even four years,” he said. Generally, the favoured route of treatment is to inject the stems with herbicide, a process that can take up to four years before the plant is eradicated. Legally, landowners are obliged to excavate knotweed and have it removed to a landfill.

Prof Caffrey believes farmers have a huge role to play in its control and this can be achieved by implementing biosecurity measures like cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread. “I know farmers are very careful about pests and diseases and I would urge them to be equally conscious of the problem that is invasive species,” he says. “Even things like cleaning their boots or tractors, having worked in a certain area, is something that needs to be done and should be mandatory. “That’s the way forward and the only way we’re going to stop introducing and spreading invasive species.” He would like to see awareness about invasive species included in the curriculum at primary school level to educate people on how damaging invasive species actually are.

Extracts from the ISCBC’s public forum and AGM program

Extracts from the ISCBC’s public forum and AGM program

Below are two extracts written by keynote speaker Prof. Joe Caffrey from the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia’s (ISCBC) public forum and AGM program. He also gave several radio interviews (Joe begins at 29:50. The  interview starts at 26:45)





Biosecurity as it relates to invasive alien species (IAS) refers to those measures that aim to prevent the introduction and spread of harmful non-native species outside their natural range and to mitigate their impacts. The Convention on Biological Diversity, the EU Regulation on IAS and many other legislative drivers for IAS place the greatest emphasis on prevention of introduction and spread, as this is far more cost-effective and less environmentally damaging than long-term control. The most effective and least expensive measure to reduce new introductions and to slow or stop the spread of IAS is via the promotion and implementation of good biosecurity practice. To be effective, awareness of the issues around IAS must be created at all levels, from government and industry to individuals, and all must be encouraged to buy-in to the proposed solutions and to implement best biosecurity practice. Ireland is among the lead countries in Europe with respect to the development of biosecurity initiatives for industry and stakeholders. These initiatives include the creation of awareness regarding the threat posed by IAS and methods to prevent their introduction and spread, through: targeted (and accredited) training programs, the development of agreed biosecurity protocols for key stakeholder groups, the provision of tried-and-tested biosecurity processes and procedures for use at construction sites, the development of innovative biosecurity products to make the task of cleaning and disinfection more easy, among others. The need for a wide-scale roll-out of biosecurity is being acknowledged at government level and provision for this is being written into national documents, such as the Water Framework Directive (2017-2021) and the National Biodiversity Action Plan. The ultimate goal is that biosecurity will become instinctive and an integral part of one’s recreation or work.



Globalization of trade and travel has facilitated the spread of invasive alien species (IAS) across the earth. There are currently over 12,000 non-native species in the EU, 15% of which are invasive, and their numbers are growing rapidly. Prior to the introduction of the EU Regulation on IAS (1143/2014), which entered into force in January 2015, there was no EU framework for tackling IAS comprehensively and few IAS were addressed by EU legislation. In order to determine the issues that were deemed to be most important regarding IAS in Europe, and with a view to supporting policy makers as they prepared the EU legislation on IAS, the international conference was convened in Ireland (2013). This identified the top 20 IAS issues for Europe at that time and proposed measures to assist in the construction of this important legislation. The Regulation addresses IAS by imposing restrictions on ‘IAS of Union concern’, which is a list of 37 species that was ratified in August 2016 and will be updated via collective agreement on a regular basis. The restrictions will include preventative (surveillance, early detection and rapid eradication) and reactive (eradication, population control and/or containment) measures. Already in 2016, two species of ‘Union concern’ (coypu and curly waterweed) were identified in Ireland and rapid eradication measures were implemented. While the passing of this international legislation has addressed many of the complex issues relating to IAS management, considerable challenges (e.g. lack of dedicated funding) remain. These challenges, as well as progress with IAS issues since the implementation of the Regulation, will be discussed during the presentation.

Author BIO

Joe Caffrey worked has a Senior Research Scientist with Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) for 39 years, where he headed up the Invasive Species Section. Joe has project-led a number of multi-million euro national and international research projects and has been directly involved with the development of national and EU legislation relating to invasive species. He has written in excess of 80 peer reviewed scientific papers. In 2015 Joe joined INVAS Biosecurity as a Director, where he is continuing his work with invasive species.

Prof. Joe Caffrey, INVAS Biosecurity (Ireland)


New INVAS Biosecurity Team Member

INVAS Biosecurity welcomes Dr William Earle on board.

We would like to welcome a new member, Dr William Earle, to the INVAS Biosecurity team. Willie has a PhD from University College Dublin in aquatic weed control and BSc in Environmental Biology, also from UCD. He explored the potential for a biological control program targeting Lagarosiphon major, one of the worst aquatic invaders in Ireland and around the world. This involved native range surveys of Lagarosiphon throughout Southern Africa across a range of seasons. The results of this research found several promising biocontrol candidates and two insect species new to science were discovered. Throughout his study he was responsible for operations and management of the quarantine facility at UCD.


As the Research Project Coordinator for the Applied Environmental Science Master’s program at UCD he was responsible for directing operations on a wide range of research projects. From this he has gained experience in the field working on several invasive vertebrates, invertebrates and plant species in Ireland and abroad. Willie has worked overseas with the conservation group Operation Wallacea in Indonesia. Having previously worked as a volunteer on the program, he was invited to return as a Field Ecology Lecturer. With a team of leading international scientists he carried out field surveys on botanical, herpetological, avian and mammalian projects. As part of his role he lectured students from around the world in biogeography, local biodiversity and regional conservation programs. Willie has  captained Lansdowne FC and also played international rugby for the Irish club’s team in recent years.


“I am extremely excited by this new position with INVAS. I am looking forward to working with and learning from some of the individuals and organisations on the frontline in terms of combatting invasive species in Ireland.”

Find out more about William on his LinkedIn profile.


Dublin City Council Rose Festival in St. Anne’s Park

Dublin City Council Rose Festival in St. Anne’s Park

INVAS Biosecurity would like to thank Dublin City Council for inviting us along to the Rose Festival and Niamh Ni Cholmain for her help on the 16th and 17th July. The event was a credit to all those involved and everything was helped along by the fine weather.

Keen interest in invasive species shown by those attending from the general public. Information was available from the INVAS Biosecurity  stand on several high profile invaders. Live displays and artificial models of Himalayan balsam, Giant Hogweed and our least favorite Japanese knotweed, but to name a few were on display. We also had several aquatic alien invaders such as Crassula helmsii, Elodea nutallii and Lagarosiphon major. There was great interest in learning about the key features and impacts associated with  some of the most problematic species. The plants were collected and disposed of while adhering to strict protocol by INVAS Biosecurity staff.