In Britain, we have more than 3,000 invasive non-native plant and animal species. That’s a big figure, and they have a big impact on our environment, causing damage to property and infrastructure, affecting ecosystems, harming wildlife habitats and out-competing some of our native species. It is worth remembering that only a very small proportion of non-native species become invasive and establish themselves. Plenty of pets, livestock and ornamental plants that are not native to this country are brought here and cause no damage.
This is the first of five blog posts from different members of Wildlife and Countryside Link that will be published during Invasive Species Week (23 - 29 March 2018). I work for the British Ecological Society, so it is probably not surprising that I want to reiterate the importance of keeping scientific rigour and ecological expertise at the heart of invasive species policy post-Brexit.
Recently, Wildlife and Countryside Link’s INNS Working Group produced an EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation (IAS) and Brexit briefing, with the backing of 36 environmental NGOs. We have made the case for continuing rigorous risk assessments to determine which invasive species go on the ‘banned’ list in the UK. Existing EU legislation dictates that adding or removal of species from this list requires input from academic experts, the European Commission and representatives of all EU Member States.
The use of scientific evidence within the EU IAS Regulation is a noted strength, largely due to the requirement of expert guidance and review by an independent academic body. The additional benefit of such an independent body is that it provides a check against inappropriate listing of invasive species and therefore can ensure a more efficient process, focusing on the underpinning evidence rather than political interests.
Prior to this EU Regulation, the process of listing species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales, was irregular, unclear and unfortunately ineffective. The UK has played an instrumental role in developing robust risk assessments under current legislation and we want to ensure we maintain the processes, the level of scientific rigour and clarity after the UK leaves the EU. We do not want to fall back into old habits!
Therefore, ensuring the right species are included on a ‘banned’ list is of prime importance, since these will then be restricted from being imported, transported, kept, sold, exchanged, bred, and released into the environment. If we can apply these restrictions to the right species and help prevent INNS from arriving in the UK in the first instance, or from spreading across the country once they arrive, we can at least reduce the problems and resulting costs.
In the coming blog posts, you will hear about many of the problems INNS can cause. So do follow #InvasivesWeek and #GetINNSvolved on social media and check back on Wildlife and Countryside Link’s website over the course of the week to learn more about hitchhiking species, exotic pets, garden plants getting out of control and how to get more involved in tackling invasive species.
Camilla Morrison-Bell is Policy manager at the British Ecological Society
Invasive Species Week 2018 runs from 23 - 29 March - check out all the action at #InvasivesWeek
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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