The Spey Foundation is delighted to announce today that biological control of the highly invasive plant Ranunculus fluitans, which was introduced into the Spey in the 1970s, has progressed from secret trials in the lower reaches to a full scale eradication programme throughout the river. Groundbreaking genetic research has produced a new breed of snail, Gastrospey sourdensi. This snail which, can be readily identified by the highly unusual left twist to its spiral, feeds exclusively on Ranunculus consuming the upper growth of the plant to below its lowest root node. Eaten down to this level Ranunculus is incapable of producing any new growth, although the roots themselves are thought to live indefinitely.
Batches of snails, all of which will be males, will be released in the river from Grantown downstream. The introductions will take place under cover of darkness to allow the snails to disperse and avoid predation. As they won’t be able to breed there is no risk of the snail population spiralling out of control; a problem that has beset biological control programmes worldwide.
Research by the Spey Foundation proved that Ranunculus has negative impacts on salmon spawning and freshwater pearl mussels, both of which are SAC qualifying species on the Spey. Control of this invasive instream plant will be extremely benefical for the ecology of the river and will be welcomed by conservationists, anglers, ghillies and canoeists alike.
G. sourdensi is a new species to science and as yet has no common name.