Invasive species becoming native nasties

Unfortunately, cases of invasive species in the U.K. are well known. There are obviously the poster boys in the rogues gallery of little blighters who have arrived on our fair shores and proceeded to wreak havoc, such as the grey squirrel and the American blue claw cray fish but, it’s the ones that have slipped under the radar that are maybe creating the greatest pressures on our natural spaces.

Plant species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam, New Zealand pigmyweed and the notorious giant hogweed cost the UK around £1.7 BILLION a year in clear up fees. Combatting their spread is an ongoing task with no real end in sight, with the amount of money being spent by governmental organisations highlighting how serious a problem it is.

Some of the invading species are not only bad for our habitats and natural spaces, they can also be bad for us! The aforementioned giant hogweed has the ability to cause all kinds of discomfort and pain and leave you with skin problems for the rest of you life should you be so unfortunate as to accidently handle one. The Asian hornet packs a punch in its sting and crushing mandibles so fierce that it leaves even the most robust of individuals writhing in pain, accidently disturbing a number of these angry winged menaces could even end up being fatal!

So, if these plants and animals are so bad for our local fauna and in certain cases, us as well, why did we bring them here in the first place? In the instance of plants and trees the answer is usually a fairly simple one – we brought them to our shores because they looked nice, the Victorians imported vast numbers of species we had never encountered in the UK with no real idea or thought of the consequences. Without their natural predators and life trials being present, some species have found conditions ideal for them to dominate large areas and by out competing our native species they are effectively creating ecologically dead zones. The case of the invasive animals is slightly more complicated; some were brought here for food, some for their pelts, some for recreational hunting and then also the same as most invasive plant species, they were brought here because we (well, mainly the Victorians) liked the look of them.

It’s not just here that the introduction of non-native species has wreaked havoc. There are examples all over the globe of the destruction caused by man meddling and altering eco-systems. Luckily we now have a far better understanding of the fact that we too are part of these eco-systems and our need to protect them. Thankfully there have been far tighter regulations in place to try and prevent any future invasions, it’s now just a case of trying to stop the invaders that are already here from spreading and committing any more thuggery upon our already pressured natural spaces, plants and animals.