Invasive Non-Native Species: BES POSTnote Seminar at Parliament

Fay Collier, this year’s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) fellow (awarded by the British Ecological Society), researched and wrote a review for POSTnote on Invasive Non-Native species: their ecological and economic threats. A seminar was held on the topic today at Portcullis House, Westminster, chaired by the Earl of Selborne with speakers Prof. John Mumford (Imperial College London), Dr. Niall Moore (Non-Native Species Secretariat), Dr. Paul Raven (Environment Agency) and Dr. Dick Shaw (CAB International).

Prof John Mumford:

Described invasive species colonisations as ‘explosive and insidious events.’ Highlighted how establishment and impact are key predictors of risk. Professor Mumford called for more money to be spent on natural competition research, given the uncertainty surrounding the impact of natural competition on invasive species.

Niall Moore:

Spoke of the economic implications of non-native species, citing them as the 2nd biggest drivers of biodiversity loss, with a huge economic cost – 5% of world economy is the cost of cleaning up all invasive species. Niall suggested that improved monitoring and rapid response will help tackle invasive species. For example, between 1999 and 2004, Bullfrogs were identified in south-east England, but the problem was identified quickly and they were dispatched before they became a problem; prevention being better than cure.

Stakeholder input is required into identifying policy objectives, public engagement should be actively encouraged. Currently there are legislative shortcomings such as no compulsory access for government agents to sites where removal of invasive species is required.

Dr Paul Raven:

Gave an overview of invasive species’ social and economic impacts including describing the following:

Top ten ‘most wanted’ invasive species by the EA:

1) Japanese Knotweed (structural damage to buildings; clogs waterways)
2) N. American crayfish (outcompetes native crayfish; impacts on invertebrate plant communities
3) Mink (linked to huge decline in water vole and moorhen populations)
4) Giant hogweed (toxic and causes skin irritation; suppresses native plants)
5) Floating Pennywort (forms mats that choke waterways and starve them of light, nutrients an d oxygen)
6) Himalayan Balsalm (lures bumblebees form native plants)
7) Australian Swamp Stonecrop (destroys pond life and impacts on recreational activities)
8) Chinese Mitten Crab (secondary host of parasitic lung fluke; outcompetes native species)
9) Parrots Feather (forms dense mats; can increase drowning risk for children)
10) Top mouth gudgeon (prolific breeder that outcompetes native species)

Dr Dick Shaw (CABI):

Believes control is the most effective way of dealing with invasive species. He talked about a number of problem species in the UK and in Australia, including the loss of eucalyptus forest to rubber vine weed. Identifying host-specific natural enemies of exotic invasives (i.e species that will naturally specifically predate/attack the target species and not other species), is a key aim of CABI’s research. For example, CABI determined that the weevil Aphalara itadori specifically attacks japanese knotweed, and their research is now being subjected to ‘Pest Risk Analysis’ scrutinized under peer-review, and subject to public consultation, will be released to tackle the knotweed.

The seminar was an excellent event in its own right, with fascinating talks from high-profile speakers in the subject area, and with some thought-provoking discussion and ideas at the end.
It is also an excellent opportunity to meet and speak with researchers and people from industry on a topic of great interest.

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