Call for wildlife security force to keep native species safe

A A A

A wildlife security service should be set up to stop invasive alien species of animals and plants getting a hold in Britain, the Government was told yesterday.

A wildlife security service should be set up to stop invasive alien species of animals and plants getting a hold in Britain, the Government was told yesterday.

Detailed policies should be developed to prevent the introduction of harmful exotic species which – like the Japanese knotweed or the American mink – can wreak havoc on native wildlife and their habitats, and damage the economy, according to a broad-based group of wildlife experts.

Preventing the arrival of harmful new species will be more effective than trying to contain, control or eradicate them after they are established, says the report of the non-native species working group.

The group was set up by the Government to address growing concerns, in a world of ever-expanding trade and international travel, over what happens when a species is introduced into an ecosystem where it does not naturally occur.

The result can be wildlife and even economic catastrophe. The brown tree snake of Indonesia, introduced to the Pacific island of Guam in the 1940s, had by the 1970s wiped out Guam's native forest birds. The Nile perch, introduced to Lake Victoria in 1954, has now driven to extinction more than 200 fish species that were unique to the African lake, through predation and competition for food.

The World Conservation Union says the introduction of non-native species is the biggest cause of wildlife extinctions around the world, after the destruction of habitat.

In Britain, the native red squirrel has been driven out of most of England by the grey squirrel, introduced from North America in the late 19th century; the native water vole has been similarly wiped out by the American mink, brought over 70 years ago to stock fur farms; and the native white-clawed crayfish of our limestone and chalk streams has been badly affected by the arrival of its US cousin, the signal crayfish.

Perhaps even more directly troublesome have been plants. Japanese knotweed, imported by the horticultural trade, has spread across Britain in the past 40 years and dominates the habitats it invades with a dense mass of foliage and canes that shuts out other plants.

It can grow through Tarmac and even the floors of houses, appears to have no natural enemies and is difficult and expensive to control. Rhododendrons, introduced in the 19th century, can cause similar difficulties.

More recently, non-native aquatic plants such as Australian swamp stonecrop and New Zealand pigmyweed have caused similar problems.

The report accepts that only a small number of alien species become invasive pests. A surprising amount of familiar British wildlife is in the strict sense of the term non-native, including flowers such as the poppy, birds such as the mandarin duck and mammals such as the rabbit (which was introduced by the Romans); many are perfectly benign.

The report says one group should be designated to take charge of the threat of alien species, raise awareness of the dangers, develop codes of conduct for those involved such as the gardening industry, and establish adequate monitoring and surveillance arrangements.

Elliot Morley, the minister for Nature Protection, welcomed the report and promised a government response this summer.

Yesterday Plantlife, a wildflower conservation charity, joined forces with gardening trade and consumer organisations – the Garden Centre Association, Gardening Which?, the Horticultural Trade Association, the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association and the Royal Horticultural Society – to express support for the report.

"We are aware of the role that horticulture can play in both contributing to and alleviating this problem," they said.

The predators

American mink (Mustela vison)

These were first brought to Britain in the 1930s to stock fur farms. As the farms spread in the late 1940s and 1950s some escaped, and in 1957 they bred in the wild (in Devon) for the first time. Since then they have spread across the country, filling a niche in the ecosystem for an aquatic carnivore, and they have now wiped out more than 90 per cent of Britain's water voles. Some naturalists would like to try to eliminate them but the job would cost millions and take years, and such a national eradication campaign appears unlikely.

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

This was deliberately imported by the gardening trade, but was probably released into the countryside accidentally. It is now among the most troublesome of pests in many parts of the country because it can rapidly colonise a site and squeeze out everything else – such as bluebells in a bluebell wood. Hard to eradicate, it can also increase flood risk by causing riverbank erosion.

New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus)

This is a predator of the earthworms that keep our soil in good condition and are a source of food for many animals and birds. It was first sighted in Northern Ireland in 1963, probably having arrived in the root-ball of a plant, and is now widespread in Ulster, Scotland and northern England. It can greatly reduce the population of earthworms.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone