This subject has been brought to the fore recently with the discussion on Himalayan Balsam, an invasive non-native plant that survives on Seil. This is probably one species that is easier to eradicate than others, but another more problematic plant is Japanese Knotweed. This can render a property uninsurable, and must be dealt with correctly and without delay. Invasive plants damage the environment in a number of ways. They out-compete our native flora for light, space and nutrients. They can reduce the light and heat reaching lower-growing plants, alter rates of nutrient cycling, or (in freshwater habitats) cause large changes in the amount of oxygen available, all of which can be harmful to other plants and animals. The environmental damage caused by invasive non-native plants can be irreversible and destroy many of our national natural treasures. In fact 30% of important plant areas have been found to have invasive species in them.
Another damaging species, that most of us are aware of is the American Mink. Since the early sixties this animal has decimated seabird colonies up and down the West Coast since its release from mink farms and has done immeasurable damage. American mink are often mistaken for otters, but are much smaller with fluffier tails and pointed snouts. Inside this beautiful looking creature lurks an indiscriminate killer of birds, fish and small mammals that decimate ground-nesting birds and tackle fish as large as themselves. Native to North America, they were introduced around the world for fur farming. Escapees and deliberate releases have resulted in this great survivor becoming established in Europe and with no natural predators in the UK, their populations are thriving.
Non-native species are the second most serious threat to global biodiversity after habitat loss and islands, freshwater and coastal waters are at risk more than most. We can all do something to help stop their spread, non-native species cause problems that affect us all. They cost the Scottish economy at least £244 million a year and cause great damage to our native wildlife. Everyone can play a part in stopping the spread of non-native species. For advice, identification or to report any of these species please refer to the Scottish National Heritage website at :-
or contact our local SNH office at Cameron House, Albany St, Oban PA34 4AE
Phone :- 0300 244 9360
Richard Wesley (Lorn Natural History Group)