This week is national Invasive Species Week, 13-17 May, which aims to raise awareness across Great Britain about invasive species and their impacts. Vicky Hilton from the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative explains more in this latest blog.
Being a project all about invasive species, here at the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative, we’re quite excited about having a whole week of lots of people talking about Invasive Species and we’d love everyone to share in our enthusiasm and learn something new during the week. For example, did you know:
There are around 2,000 non-native plants and animals in the UK, these non-native species are species that have been transported here from their native range with the assistance of humans (either deliberately or accidentally). Of these only 10-15% go on to cause problems, having a negative impact on our environment, our economy or our way of life – these are termed as invasive non-native species.
Invasive species are problematic because they thrive in the new environment into which they’ve been introduced and, in doing so, impact on and disrupt the delicate balance of that natural ecosystem. Their impacts can be large and obvious, like the presence of a stand of Japanese knotweed, or subtle like the reduction in invertebrate biodiversity in a river when the banks are dominated by Himalayan balsam.
Most non-native species that go onto become invasive share several characteristics that make them successful in their new environment.
In addition, invasive plants often readily thrive on disturbed soils and making them very opportunistic and able to rapidly colonise a new area. They are usually fast growing, can be taller with larger leaves than native species and the have a longer photosynthetic period, they are the first out in leaf in the spring and last to die back in autumn. Some invasive plants also alter soil and habitat conditions where they grow to better suit their own survival and expansion.
All or some of these characteristics in combination make successful invasive species formidable opponents to native species – and difficult (and often expensive) to remove or dislodge once established.
The most significant impacts invasive species have are on our natural environment where we see:
Invasive non-native species are having a significant cost to our economy. They are estimated to cost in the region of £2 billion a year in Great Britain. Costs are incurred by the agriculture, forestry and horticulture sectors, but also by many other sectors including transport, construction, aquaculture, recreation and utilities.
Some invasive species threaten our health or enjoyment of our environment. Rats, house mice and cockroaches are all invasive non-native species that can be serious house pests, and giant hogweed contains a phototoxic sap which causes serious skin burns on contact. Invasive plant species growing along river banks can spoil our enjoyment of the countryside, making it less appealing and restricting access for walkers and anglers.
Invasive species are a huge challenge in terms of management and removal – and we need to work together to be effective. The most effective measure is to prevent their introduction in the first place. However, everyone can play a role in this important battle.
There are also lots of ways to get involved in Invasive Species Week or in our project at any time, you can join in with a hands-on volunteering session to remove invasive plants, adopt a mink raft, go on a guided walk or drop in on one of the pop-up stalls. Our programme of events can be viewed on our website.
We’ll be posting lots more information and facts this week about invasives species and what you can do to help, on our social media channels, so if you want to learn more follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative is a four-year partnership project led by Scottish Natural Heritage and with many Fishery Boards and Trusts and the University of Aberdeen as partners. SISI is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage. To find out more, visit the project website where you can also sign up to the e-newsletter, follow on social media or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
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