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Photo by Wild Arena Ltd

Today is day one of Invasive Species Week! This week aims to raise awareness about the damage invasive species can cause and to empower people to help protect the environment.  Mitigating the effects of an invasive species is part of the Reclaiming Reds project, and we have several things planned for this week including live talks on Wednesday at 10am (register here) and on Friday at 6pm over on our Facebook page –  so keep your eyes peeled! 

Let’s look at some definitions to get us started:
Video: Explaining the terms

Invasive species cost the UK billions of pounds every year, some of the worst are listed below:

  • Japanese knotweed – Originally introduced in the 1840’s as an ornamental plant, Japanese knotweed is an extremely fast growing and spreading perennial which crowds out native plants causing a massive reduction in plant and animal biodiversity.  It damages habitats, increases soil erosion and flood risks, damages infrastructure and is extremely difficult and expensive to eradicate.
  • New Zealand flatworms – thought to have been brought over accidentally through the plant trade in the 1960s, these carnivorous invertebrates have a massive effect on soil health as they decimate the earthworm population.
  • Grey squirrels – Introduced in the 1800s as an ornamental species, grey squirrels cause tree damage by stripping bark which exposes trees to fungal and insect attack.  They damage cars, household lofts and cables, and are responsible for the massive decline in native red squirrel populations by outcompeting them for resources and by spreading the deadly Squirrel Pox virus.

How do invasive species get here?

Most UK invasive species were historically introduced through trade either intentionally or unintentionally by “hitchhiking”.  Scientists are concerned that increased global trade coupled with rising temperatures is likely to result in an increase in non-native species introduction and subsequent establishment in the UK.  It can be extremely difficult and expensive to remove an invasive non-native species and prevention is always better than cure. 

What can I do to help stop the spread of invasive species?

  • Never release unwanted plants or pets into the wild! 
  • Watch out for invasive species in the wild.  Is there someone you can report it to?
  • Clean your hiking gear before exploring a new area to remove seeds and pathogens.
  • Avoid ordering plants from abroad and try growing native plants in your garden instead.
  • Volunteer at a local nature hotspot to help remove invasive species.  There are lots of opportunities with organisations such as the Wildlife Trust.