ERCCIS has run a series of projects to monitor and record the spread of non-native species across the terrestrial, freshwater and marine habtiats of Cornwall.
Non-native (alien) species are plants and animals which have been transported to regions beyond their natural range, usually by human activities. Once a species arrives in a new location, several things can happen; it can find its new habitat inhospitable and die off, it can survive with little environmental impact, or it may thrive and can become invasive.
Non-native species often arrive without their natural predators which would have kept them in check within their native range. Some display traits which allow them to out-compete native species for essential resources such as food, space and light. This may be due to their being bigger and stronger, more vigorous and quicker to grow, or by breeding at a time which is advantageous over native species. Some species also directly prey on native wildlife and/or can carry diseases from which native species have no immunity.
Due to the increasing threat there are now a large number of international, national and local agreements, conventions, legislation and strategies pertaining to invasive non native species. Defra launched The Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain in May 2008.
The two main projects ERCCIS was involved in were:
Pond Check was part of the Investigate Invasives campaign to track down non-native invasive species which threaten the habitats and native wildlife of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Non-native invasive plant species are one of the greatest threats to the environment and biodiversity. They are often more vigorous than native species and lack natural pests and diseases to keep them in check. The smallest fragment, inadvertently spread, can cause an invasion. Aquatic invasive plants, in particular, out-compete native plants and can form dense mats choking up watercourses, increasing the risk of flooding, deoxygenating water and limiting access. Growth can be so dense that in some cases it can be mistaken for solid ground. Substantial amounts of money are spent annually managing non-native invasive species on waterways, ponds and lakes.
Pond Check was a free service run by ERCCIS to help pond owners identify potential problem plants and provide advice on how to remove and carefully dispose of them. These are six of the worse aquatic offenders to look out for in your pond. They cause extensive damage if allowed to escape into the countryside.
- Spreading the word of which pond plants are harmful and how to prevent their spread amongst pond owners and the general public, including a winning display at the Royal Cornwall Show engaging with over 14,000 visitors.
- Working with over volunteers to weed out invasive plants to improve local amenity ponds, spending over 150 volunteer hours working on comminity pond sites.
- Aided Government delivery of the 'Be Plant Wise' campaign, launched in Spring 2011.
Marine Science Project
A citizen science initiative coordinated by ERCCIS, with the Marine Biological Association (MBA), aimed at monitoring and preventing the spread of invasive non-native species in the marine environment in Cornwall.
Non-native species introductions not only compete with native species for resources such as food, space and light; they can restructure ecosystems leading to a loss of biodiversity. In the marine environment, due to its inherent difficulty to observe, invasions may often go unnoticed until it is too late to take action.
Launched in April 2012 with the aim of creating a network of volunteers on the look-out for non-native species across the county, either becoming 'Non-Native Biological Recorders' or deploying an artifical settlement panel at non-tidal moorings and monitoring colonising species. Using retrievable settlement panels enabled volunteers to keep a watchful eye and during the next two years, volunteer boat and marina owners deployed panels over a specified period and monitored what grew - learning about the marine environment and detecting the arrival of hitchhikers and stowaways which may threaten Cornwall’s native species. In doing so they helped to prevent the spread of non native species without even getting wet!
- Over 3,800 volunteer hours were given to monitor the spread of marine non-native species across Cornwall.
- 30 non-native species were detected through the project, including 10 new species to Cornwall and 3 new to the UK!
- Bio-security guidance for boat owners was promoted among the volunteers, water users and general public. And aided in the developments of Bio-security protocol for harbours in Cornwall.
- Published "Investigating the efficacy of citizen science relative to other methods of monitoring marine no-native species" By John Bishop and Lisa Rennocks to inform the Marine Strategy Frameworks Directive