Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Invasive Species

Look Out!  Hitch-Hikers About!

Jen Aldous - Invasive Species Officer, South Cumbria Rivers Trust

Picked up a hitch-hiker recently?  Many of you may have unknowingly provided a means of transport for some very sneaky, adaptable and UNWANTED species of plants and animals, and dropped them off in our precious waterways.

Invasive non-native species, or INNS, are becoming more prevalent throughout the UK and Cumbria and can have devastating impacts on our ecosystems, recreational and local amenities, infrastructure and the economy. They are now the 2nd greatest cause of biodiversity loss globally. Cumbria hosts a number of rare and protected wetland habitats. These unique areas are at risk from imported pond and ornamental garden plants and animals found in shipping ballast released into UK ports, all of which can thrive here and out-compete native species and degrade the habitat. When contained and managed responsibly, these plant species can be considered as pleasant additions to gardens. However because of their ability to grow and reproduce rapidly, when allowed to escape into the wild they cause huge and damaging impacts. You may wonder how some of these species become so invasive, so here are a few facts:

  • Himalayan Balsam – can produce up to 800 seeds per plant which are spread from their exploding seed pods. The seeds also survive dormant for up to 2 years in the soil before germination. 
  • Japanese knotweed – can reproduce and spread from a piece of root/rhizome the size of your little fingernail (0.6g)! 
  • Floating pennywort -can grow up to 20cm a day. 
  • Killer shrimp – can survive out of water for 6 days. 
  • Crayfish plague – is a fungus which can survive between 6-22 days without a host under wet or damp conditions.

South Cumbria Rivers Trust, Lune Rivers Trust and the Cumbria Freshwater Invasive Non-Native Species Initiative are striving to protect, control and eradicate inns from our catchments across south Cumbria and the rest of the county – a huge undertaking. We need the support and help from local residents, organisations, businesses and visitors to stop the spread.

So how can you help?

1 – Check Clean Dry 
Check all clothing, footwear and equipment before leaving a river or lake and remove any plant fragments or invertebrates and leave on site. Clean if possible with tap water to remove anything you might have missed. Then, ensure everything is thoroughly dried before visiting a new watercourse.

2 – I Spy…… 
Enjoy a walk out and about? Help us to survey the catchment whilst you’re out enjoying the countryside and get into areas you may not have been before. We need to find source populations of INNS so we can start our control efforts from the headwaters down to the coast. Training and equipment provided if you can provide your own transport and a bit of time.

3 – Be Plant Wise 
Although it may seem like the right thing to do, please don’t re-home your aquatic pond plants in the wild. You might unknowingly have aquatic INNS in your pond. When you clean out your pond, please make sure that you compost everything that comes out and do not put it in the wild. When these plants are released into the wild they can smother our native plants, clog our waterways, exacerbate flooding and remove oxygen from the water which can harm fish, invertebrates and other species.

4 - Balsam Bash 
Join us for an hour or few or however much time you can spare to help remove patches of Himalayan balsam from riverbanks with one of our work parties. Meet likeminded people from around the area, get a sense of satisfaction seeing these areas shrink and seeing new and varied native species start to inhabit in the following seasons.

For more information about INNS or this project please visit our website at www.scrt.co.uk/cfinns.

If you interested in becoming involved with this project please contact Jen on 01539 816311 / 07826 141716 or jen@scrt.co.uk.

If you are interested in being involved on the River Lune and its tributaries, please contact Sarah Littlefield at Lune Rivers Trust on 01524 222174 or boddles_uk@yahoo.co.uk