Karen Harper, London Invasive Species Initiative Manager
Invasive non-native species are thought to be the biggest threat to biodiversity globally, second only to habitat destruction. They can result in significant declines in native fauna and flora, devastate threatened species and replace rich local biodiversity with a sea of a single species. They are reported to cost the British economy alone around £1.7 billion annually.
The London Invasive Species Initiative (LISI) was created in 2009 by a range of participating organisations with the aim of providing practical action to address invasive non-native species in Greater London.
Subsequently, in 2011, funding was received from Defra to increase the capacity of LISI. In March 2012, I joined the team as LISI manager from Australia where I have been working with invasive non-native species for nearly ten years. In Australia, my work included a range of activities from on-ground removal works, to writing management plans and overall strategic documents.
So what are the differences between the two countries? In my mind, they are completely different while being exactly the same. Interestingly, the situation in Great Britain is very similar to Australia, with each country ahead of the other in very different ways.
Australia is, or at least was, a virtually untouched system. There, we have seen first-hand the effect that invasive non-native species can have on an ecosystem. We have learned the hard way with the cane toad, the fox and the rabbit, to name a few. The benefit of this experience is that Australia has more legislation, policies, and guidance relating to invasive non-native species and their management. Australia takes prevention very seriously, as anyone who has waited in a quarantine queue in an Australian airport will know. Here in England, we can learn from this antipodean experience and focus on our many positives. There are many people here with great enthusiasm doing great things and we all just need to be brought together.
So, what is the plan for LISI? Several key items are needed for us to successfully manage invasive non-native species on a large scale. These include practical and effective prevention strategies and actions, rapid response frameworks and management options. These have been addressed in the recently completed draft LISI action plan which includes a list of invasive non-native species of concern, stakeholder engagement, information on invasive non-native species best practice management and a London-specific plan for addressing invasive non-native species management as a whole.
So what can members of the GIGL partnership do to help? Invasive non-native species data will be vital to develop these strategies, actions and frameworks. It is because of this need and because of GiGL’s existing network of partners, that the LISI manager’s position is being hosted by GIGL. Together, we aim to provide a central database for the collection and analysis of invasive non-native species data. This will allow data to be displayed in one format for easy comparison of completed management actions and species abundance and distribution. This data will be vital for providing the information needed to address invasive non-native species in London.
So, we’ll need your help. Watch this space….
Floating pennywort is one of several invasive plant species that grows within watercourses and is recorded by the Environment Agency regional teams when they are out and about.. GiGL were contracted by the EA to help make their recent floating pennywort data more useful for national and local planning of eradication and control.
Being able to visualise locations and hotspots of this invasive plant is key to interpreting and making best practical use of this data. The datasets were available in separate regional tables of information – including non-standard methods of recording. This meant the first step was to collate and standardise the format to create a national dataset. Once this task was achieved, grid references were plotted in GIS which enabled us to map pennywort locations.
Maps were designed to be visually simple and readable in consultation with the EA using their underlying base mapping of water courses, river catchments, and strategic districts.