rare plant research begins on the Montgomery Canal
A comprehensive research study by Glandŵr Cymru, the Canal & River Trust in Wales, and the Rare British Plants Nursery, examining two species of rare plants in the Montgomery Canal, is underway.
The research is focused on two types of pondweed, the long-stalked potamogeton praelongus and flat-stalked potamogeton friesii, which are a part of the Potamogetonaceae family – a group of aquatic plants comprised of over a hundred species worldwide. These plants improve water quality, provide shelter for aquatic organisms, and act as a primary food source for waterfowl and fish. The research will look at developing different ways to naturally cultivate the plants, benefiting species recovery initiatives that will have an impact nationally.
These plants are still rare and understudied. The research will help to understand the plants’ life cycles, reproductive mechanisms, and the ecological requirements to enable scientists to develop effective conservation strategies for them.
The Montgomery Canal offers an ideal human-built habitat for the species. The canal’s slow-moving waters are rich in nutrients and receive a lot of sunlight, creating conditions that closely mimic their natural habitats such as the slow backwater areas of rivers.
Glandŵr Cymru is currently restoring a 4.4-mile section of the canal between Llanymynech and Arddleen thanks to a successful Levelling Up Fund bid in partnership with Powys County Council, supported by the Montgomery Canal Partnership. One of the aims of the project is to protect the ecosystem and create conditions that will allow the plants to flourish once again.
Kathryn Woodroffe, project manager at Glandŵr Cymru, said: “The Montgomery Canal is one of the most important canals in the country for nature. The pondweeds in the canal stand out as remarkable specimens for their rarity and their elusive reputation that has allowed them to persist and maintain ecological significance despite the size of their small populations. Their rarity highlights the need for this dedicated research. By studying these plants, we can discover valuable insights into the delicate balance of aquatic ecosystems and pave the way for effective conservation measures.
“The canals are a precious resource and this is just one example of the vital role they play in the natural world – in this case with research outcomes that could stretch across the UK. We are committed to protecting these special places and welcome the support of all those who value their local canal.”
Andrew Shaw, Director of The Rare British Plants Nursery, said: “We are delighted to be working on this important project. These rare pondweeds are now growing well at our plant nursery and we are already learning a lot about their ecological requirements. Our studies will enable the canal restoration works to secure the long-term future of these rare aquatic plants.”