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Invasive Non-Native Species – one of the largest threats to our ecosystems

By 18th June 2019 No Comments

Hi, my name’s Rhiann, a Your Shore Beach Ranger trainer, and I’d like to talk about something that I feel so passionate about that I have now become an active advocate for – Invasive non-native species in the UK.

Sadly, the phrases ‘INNS’, or ‘invasive alien species (IAS)’ are ones that are likely to become more familiar (if not already) as more species – plant and animal – are being introduced intentionally and unintentionally into areas beyond their natural range. For some people, the concept of having exotic animals and plants in close proximity to them is an extremely exciting one. However, as many already know, any species outside of their native range has the potential to thrive and out compete the native species already existing in that habitat, resulting in an ecological imbalance and detrimental effects on the ecosystem and services it provides. The rate at which species are being redistributed around the globe is rising dramatically, causing great concern for many scientists, marine biologists, ecologists, and conservationists alike, especially with the prevalence of our warming climate, which is predicted to drive the increase and impacts of INNS significantly. Already recognised as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in freshwater and saltwater habitats with an estimated control cost of at least £1.7 billion per year for the British economy (Defra, 2019), INNS are often spread via fouling of recreational equipment, hull fouling of commercial or private vessels, ballast water exchange, escape or release of plants and animals from aquaria and other human activities. Species such as fish and crab larvae, mussels, algae etc. are removed from their natural range; those that survive often thrive in their new home and cause an imbalance to the ecosystem, either by predating on rare species or consuming their food source.

As a rare, native species of Cornwall myself (J), as well as a dedicated Beach Ranger, I am naturally passionate about our environment and feel it is our duty as humans to protect and conserve the beauty it provides us. In light of the increasing impacts caused by INNS to aquatic habitats, a global focus on awareness of biosecurity, with the involvement of community projects and research to help stop the spread/eradicate is crucial right now. Thankfully, there are some incredible organisations and action groups (LAG’s) currently working hard to tackle INNS, such as my second job Community Invasive Non Native Species Group (CINNG) – a Local Action Group based in Cornwall and working throughout South West England to raise awareness of the adverse impacts of INNS on the natural environment and the ecosystem goods and services it provides. We work with community volunteers and relevant organizations (e.g. utility companies, national charities and government agencies) to conserve, protect and improve the natural environment by reducing the impact of INNS. This collaboration allows sharing of expert knowledge and actions to have a greater impact, however, as a large part of what we do relies on the support from volunteers and the public, we are always happy to welcome new members and encourage people to get in touch and get involved with the incredible work CINNG are doing. If you’d like to find out more, see http://www.cinng.org.uk/ or if you’d like to be added to the Cornwall Invasive Species Forum mailing list for updates and upcoming events please email me at [email protected] . I look forward to meeting more advocates for conservation of our marine and freshwater environments and increasing the team of natural beach rangers!

The second annual Cornwall Invasive Species Forum, organised by CINNG, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Porthcurno beach. A full house of representatives from a wide range of stakeholder groups were present to contribute including the National Trust, Natural England, Duchy of Cornwall, South West Water, Environment Agency, Cornwall Council as well as other ecologists.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is currently working with South Devon AONB, led by Natural England with funding from European Marine Fisheries Fund on a two year project to map and trial control methods of Pacific Oysters in the South west. A total of 13 volunteer teams have been trained to carry out surveys and work is taking place all around Cornwall’s coastline. The Pacific oyster (Megallana gigas) is an invasive non-native species that was first introduced to Britain in 1926 (GBINNS) and farmed commercially from the 1960’s. The evidence available at the time indicated that the cool temperature of UK waters would prevent any spread of this species. However, since its introduction, sea temperatures have been rising and this species has spread extensively around the coast. In some areas it has become problematic, establishing reefs and excluding other intertidal species. For more info and to get involved please email [email protected]

 

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