Scrub Removal

A large proportion of volunteer time is spent clearing sea buckthorn scrub from the nature reserve (see below for The Sea Buckthorn Story). The task involves getting stuck in with bowsaws, loppers, mattocks, spades, teeth (ok, not teeth) to clear and burn back this thorny plant, allowing the natural dune grassland to re-establish itself. Although a physically more demanding task, volunteers take it all at their own pace, taking regular breaks to toast marshmallows, bake tatties, or just enjoy the glowing fire.

You’ll need thick clothing for this task (long of sleeve and leg) and nothing you’re precious about getting ruffed up. Thick gloves and all the necessary tools and guidance will be given to volunteers before they are let loose. Click here for more info on what to bring on task.

The Sea Buckthorn Story

Sea Buckthorn (aka Hippophae rhamnoides or, locally, The Baked Bean Bush) was introduced into East Lothian and has colonised over much of the Nature Reserve at Aberlady. Large-scale planting was carried out at nearby Gullane in the 1960’s and it is thought that from there much of the plants at Aberlady have derived. In the late 1970’s the plant covered an area of about 5½ hectares. By 2007, this had increased to around 16 hectares, in spite of a large amount of time spent removing it. The rate of spread is somewhat alarming!

Although sea buckthorn does have benefits to wildlife – being nesting habitat for birds, food for many animals, and shelter for mammals – very few other plants can live with it. This is because it physically prevents growth of other plants by nature of its thick, inpenetrable growth, but also because the plant fixes nitrogen. Higher levels of nitrogen mean that plants that do grow under it are dominating, nutrient-loving plants such as nettles and thistles.

Left unchecked, sea buckthorn would march rampantly through the nature reserve and we would lose large amounts of important dune grassland – a protected and diminishing habitat for which the site is so special.

And so in 2007, an ambitious, long-term plan was put in place to dramatically reduce the amount of this plant on the nature reserve. The plan hopes to dramatically reduce the number of patches of sea buckthorn across the site whilst maintaining the larger, more mature, areas which are of most benefit to wildlife.

The ultimate success of this plan will depend very greatly on the help of volunteers, without whom we simply can’t achieve our goal!



Contact the Warden