Project ‘Horton Plains’
IAPS Targeted: Ulex europaeus
Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) is part of the country’s most important catchment area, being the origin to almost all major rivers (Mahaweli, Kelani, Walawe, etc.) and feeding into many other waterways (Belihul Oya, Agra Oya Hiriketi Oya, Uma Oya, and Bogawantalawa Oya). It is also home to many species of wildlife and is rich in biodiversity. It is believed that Ulex europaeus (Gorse) was originally brought into the country by British farmers who settled in Nuwara Eliya as protective hedging for their farmland, allowing Ulex to spread through the area. The history of Ulex in HPNP can be said to date back to the 1960s, when the government set up potato farms in the park, disturbing the original habitat for human development. These farms were in use until the 1970s. In the time period, it is said that Ulex seeds were brought into HPNP with manure for these farms. The habitat disruption and recurrent introduction of Ulex seeds allowed for them spread through HPNP:
- The montane forest of HPNP offer optimal conditions for Ulex seeds to germinate. They are also seemingly able to flower throughout the year, allowing for seeds to be produced and distributed continually. As a result, propagation is rapid and continuous if left unchecked.
- Ulex bushes produce many sharp thorns as leaves, and do not produce edible fruits. As a result. The species has no natural predator and won’t be eaten by wildlife. The plants can also live up to round 30 years, and their seeds can remain viable in soil of over 10 years.
In 2016 and 2017, there was a concentrated effort to remove the Ulex from the park (at the time covering around 120 Ha), but this project did not involve any maintenance initiatives. So, by 2018, new Ulex plants were observed to be growing again. In 2022, the FEO took up the maintenance of HPNP to remove the relatively young Ulex plants before the seeds mature and disperse, and after an assessment it was decided to perform this work manually over the course of another 2 years. We have completed about 50% of the first round of maintenance as of 2023.