Buglife asks Government for action on alien species

Wednesday 8th October 2014

Buglife believes that all invertebrates are important. However sometimes bugs can end up where they’re not supposed to, and sometimes this leads to problems. These alien (non-native) species may have damaging effects on their new environment and can push out our native animals or plants.

Buglife have contributed to a priority alien species list that has been submitted by environmental organisations to Defra, in an attempt to halt the introduction to the UK of the most invasive species. The launch of this list comes as yet another highly invasive and potentially damaging invertebrate, the Quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis) has been found in UK waters for the first time.

Dr Margaret Palmer, compiler of the list of 54 invertebrates, said “This list includes species that have been with us for some time and others that are thought to be on their way here. In fact this year, as we have been drawing up the list, three of the species on it have been found in this country for the first time. These are two crabs from the western Pacific – the Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) and the Brush-clawed shore crab (Hemigrapsus takanoi) – as well as the Quagga mussel, which was recently discovered in Surrey.”

A new EU regulation, coming into effect on the 1st January 2015, advises member states to create lists of invasive alien species of concern within their own territories, and put appropriate control measures in place. With this in mind, Buglife have defined a process, based on reliable and up-to-date information, for identifying species which are likely to cause the most damage to our environment.

The arrival of the Quagga mussel is an example of why action is needed. Originally from Ukraine, this species has now colonised the Netherlands, Germany and North America. Due to its filtering capacity and ability to produce dense populations, it can significantly reduce native biodiversity, and alter whole freshwater ecosystems. It is also a nuisance and economic problem when growing in pipes of water treatment plants or commercial ships.

Craig Macadam, Buglife’s Conservation Director said “We hope that the UK will come up with an adequate response to the new regulation. Buglife are calling on the Government to take action, for instance by signing the Ballast Water Management Convention, before many more alien species become established in the UK.