Trolleys in canal protect rare weed

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THE SHOPPING trolley - once the scourge of environmentalists who had to haul them out of rivers and canals - is now being used to protect one of the world's rarest underwater plants.

British Waterways yesterday used three trolleys found in the Forth and Clyde Canal at Glasgow to act as giant baskets for Bennett's Pondweed. The delicate pondweed, which is found nowhere else in the world, was first discovered in the canal and nearby ponds in 1890. It thrived until 1937 when the ponds were drained and it was thought to have vanished.

But it was rediscovered in the 1960s in the Glasgow branch of the canal where it has flourished ever since.

A spokeswoman for British Waterways said the trolleys were needed to protect the pondweed from dredging work that was taking place.

"We didn't want the plants, which are very delicate, to be disturbed by the dredger and we thought this would be an ideal chance to put the trolleys to good use," she said.

The plan is part of British Waterway's pounds 378m Millennium Link project to restore and reopen the Forth & Clyde and Union canals coast between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The pondweed survives in water up to six feet deep and creates a habitat for small fish to hide from pike, for algae to grow and for snails to feed.

Olivia Lassiere, an ecologist at British Waterways, who came up with the plan for the trolleys, said that if it proved successful, they could be used to protect other plants and keep them in their natural habitat.