Government issues non-native species policy paper

The strategy sets out aims and actions for addressing the threats posed by invasive non-native species.

It aims to:

  • get people to work better together, including the government, stakeholders, land managers and the general public
  • improve co-ordination and co-operation on issues at a European and international level

This strategy covers 2015 to 2020. It replaces the first strategy issued in 2008.

The 2008 Invasive Non-native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain included a recommendation for evaluation every five years. The first review commenced in 2013 and included six workshops with stakeholders and public consultation on the review’s interim findings. Two international experts were also commissioned to review the strategy from an international perspective. This updated strategy is the output of that review process.

This strategy aims to address invasive non-native species (INNS) issues in Great Britain, maintaining the approach of the 2008 strategy and the 2003 policy review. The strategy covers the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments and also species native to one part of a country that become invasive in areas outside their natural range. The term ‘non-native species’ (NNS) is used throughout the document and is the equivalent of ‘alien species’ as used by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). INNS (the equivalent of 'invasive alien species' or ‘IAS’) are broadly defined as species whose introduction and/or spread threaten biological diversity or have other unforeseen impacts.

The scope of the strategy covers all non-native species of flora and fauna with the exception of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), bacteria and viruses. Its full effect, however, is aimed at those non-native species that are known to be or are potentially invasive. The strategy does not aim to address issues related to human health or formerly native species, nor does it cover animal or plant diseases although it aims to ensure close working with these areas where appropriate.

The Government's vision is that if this atrategy is fully implemented, biodiversity, quality of life and economic interests in GB will be better protected against the adverse impacts of INNS because there will be: widespread awareness and understanding of the risks and adverse impacts associated with INNS, and greater vigilance against these; ntegration of INNS within the broader biosecurity agenda; a strong sense of shared responsibility across government, key stakeholder organisations, land managers and the general public for action and behaviour that will reduce the threats posed by INNS; a guiding framework for national, regional and local mitigation, control or eradication initiatives helping to reduce the detrimental impact of INNS; and improved co-ordination and co-operation on INNS issues at a European and international level.

The 2008 Strategy was drafted in the knowledge that, while the majority of non-native species pose little or no risk, INNS are a significant and growing problem; however, the threat to GB was largely unquantified. Now, in 2015, the Government has considerably more knowledge of the magnitude of the issue. There are nearly 2,000 non-native species established in GB, most of which are terrestrial (c.1,800) with smaller numbers in the marine and freshwater environments (c.80 in each). The number of new arrivals is also increasing with 10-12 new non-native species becoming established every year. This trend is mirrored across Europe and the rest of the world. If it is not addressed, it is expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future, says the report's authors.

About 10-15 per cent of non-native species established in GB cause significant adverse impacts. Aquatic species tend to be more invasive than terrestrial ones and animals more invasive than plants. Impacts include: Environmental: Disrupting habitats and ecosystems, preying on or outcompeting native species, spreading disease, and interfering with the genetic integrity of native species. The ecological impact of some INNS, such as the American mink, signal crayfish and grey squirrel are well known, but many other impacts are less visible;

Economic: The cost of INNS in GB is at least £1.7 billion per year. Much of this cost is borne by the agriculture and horticulture sector, but many other sectors, including transport, construction, aquaculture, recreation and utilities, are also affected. Japanese knotweed alone is estimated to cost the British economy around £166 million per year;

Social: Some species cause problems to human health or are a nuisance to landowners. Invasive plants clog water bodies preventing access for navigation and angling. Some significant threats to human health are posed by species not yet in GB but that could establish in the future. For example, the Asian hornet which has killed at least seven people in France since its introduction, and ragweed which has substantially increased hay fever suffering across many European countries.

Acknowledging the growing threat from non-native species, the Convention on Biological Diversity provides a major driver for international action. One of its guiding principles calls for national strategies on INNS. At the EU level, the Invasive Alien Species Regulation (EC 1143/2014) that came into force on 1 January 2015.

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