The invaders that are costing us billions

Posted: Friday 23rd September 2011

Environment Agency wages war on invasive wildlife that threatens our green and pleasant land.

The Environment Agency today released its ten most wanted list of alien invaders - the plants and animals that are threatening to take over Britain's waterways.

What do invasive species cost the UK?

Invasive species now cost the UK economy an estimated £1.7billion every year. They cause damage to riverbanks and buildings, increase flood risk, crowd out and kill off native wildlife and become so prolific on waterways that fishermen, boaters and anglers are unable to use them.

The cost of clearing land, such as construction sites, of invasive plants can run into the millions. The rise of invasive species is also a major challenge in meeting tough new EU targets on the ecology of rivers and lakes.

The Environment Agency currently spends over £2million a year controlling invasive species, and is this year increasing its efforts with partners such as Natural England by targeting some of the £18m funding provided by Defra to help more English rivers meet the new EU targets.

While Britain’s rivers are the healthiest for over 20 years and otters, salmon and other wildlife are returning for the first time since the industrial revolution, rivers that harbour non-native species could fall short of these tough new standards.

Trevor Renals, invasive species expert at the Environment Agency said:

“River water quality is the best its been since before the industrial revolution. But if we don’t control invasive species, we risk losing some of our precious native species and incurring even more clean up costs. We could also fall short of the strict EU targets for our rivers and lakes.

“The Environment Agency will be working with other environment bodies as well as community and volunteer groups to manage the spread of these damaging plants and animals. We would urge everyone to help stop the spread of these species by making sure that garden and pond plants don’t end up near rivers and parkland and thoroughly cleaning any fishing, boating and canoeing equipment when moving between waterways.”

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