News: Spring/Summer 2006
New assessment of alien plants
Appeared on Space For Nature on November 14th 2005
A new assessment of alien plants and animals abroad in the UK's countryside has pointed the finger of blame, at least in part, at gardens.
Research commissioned by English Nature has revealed that there are 2,721 non-native species and hybrids in the wild in England, including 1,798 flowering plants (73 per cent of the total), most of which have escaped from gardens. Detailed analysis on 1,413 species considered to be most significant showed that 1,177 are considered to be established in England.
The vast majority of non-native species don't cause any environmental or economic problems but some species, e.g. Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), can cause considerable damage. The report identified 19 species which have strongly negative environmental impacts. A few introduced species - mainly tree crops and field crops - have strongly positive economic impacts. Others have mixed effects, for example that well known wildlife gardening plant the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is considered to have strongly positive environmental impacts as a useful nectar source for some insects, notably butterflies, but can also colonise bare ground habitats important for other invertebrates, such as the bombardier beetle (Brachinus crepitans).
English Nature will now use these results to decide which nuisance non-native species pose a threat to English wildlife and how they can be tackled.
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