Tackling fresh invasive species threat must be a government priority

Today marks the start of Invasives Week, which aims to raise awareness of the huge problem of invasive non-native species like the American Signal crayfish.

During Invasives Week conservation organisations led by Wildlife & Countryside Link will be pressing the UK government to do more to work alongside other European Union member states to prevent the spread of invasive species across the continent.

According to Dr David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation, invasive species are a growing problem for the National Trust.

“Dealing with invasive species at our places costs the National Trust thousands of pounds every year. As a conservation charity looking after 250,000 hectares of countryside, 775 miles of coastline and hundreds of ponds, lakes and rivers, we’re very aware of the impact of invasive species on our native wildlife.”

Attempts to control invasive species at National Trust have met with varying success:

  • On the River Allen, which runs through Kingston Lacy, east Dorset, the plague carried by the American signal crayfish has wiped out the native White-clawed crayfish. Thousands of the native crayfish were recorded just two years ago. After an extensive search last year only 5 native crayfish were found.
  • On Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, we’ve been working with partners RSPB, Natural England and Landmark Trust since 2002 to boost the island’s dwindling numbers of rare Manx shearwaters on the island by eradicating the rats that ate the seabirds’ eggs and chicks. Almost 15 years later Manx shearwater are thriving on Lundy, with thousands of pairs breeding on the island every year.

Continuing to keep places like Lundy free of invasive non-native predators is vital, warns David Bullock.

“Off the UK’s coasts there are thousands of islands on which seabirds breed. The spectacle of huge colonies of Manx shearwaters and other species is only possible because the islands are free from invasive non-native predators. It is vital that we ensure that rats do not get to seabird islands, and that if they do we remove them.

“This week we’ve joined the call for the UK government to do even more to work with other EU countries to tighten up existing regulations to prevent invasive species from areas such as the Ponto Caspian in eastern Europe reaching our shores.”

More information can be found on the National Trust Places blog about the impact of invasive non-native species at our properties and details of how the UK government can work alongside other EU nations to develop a Member State list of species of concern to prevent invasive species from other European nations arriving in the UK.

Details about Invasives Week can be found at www.nonnativespecies.org/invasivespeciesweek

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