Invasion threat to the Isle of Wight, how can you help?

Ken Baugh and Seb Taylor examining Himalayn Balsam

This week is Invasive Species Week, an annual national event to raise awareness of the impacts of invasive non-native species.

It also details some of the simple things that everyone can do to prevent their spread, and some of the fantastic work taking place across the country, including on the Island, to protect the environment and reduce their impacts.

Seb Tayor, invasive species officer at Natural Enterprise, is putting out a call for new volunteers to join the band of heroes who will be pulling Himalayan balsam from the Island’s beautiful water-courses this summer. This is a chance to see parts of the Island not normally visited, and to experience its wonderful wildlife.

Invasive non-native species are one of the main causes of global biodiversity loss. In Britain they have contributed to dramatic declines of some native species and threaten many key sites, often causing irreversible damage. They also have significant economic costs, estimated to be in excess of £1.7 billion each year to the British economy.

In some instances, the Isle of Wight is very lucky. We do not have mink that has contributed to the collapse of the water vole population across England, and Giant Hogweed rarely pops up. However Japanese knotweed is commonplace as are Himalayan balsam, Rhododendron and Bamboo.

Asian hornets are another threat. They started to reach England from France in 2016, and nests have been found just across the Solent. The Isle of Wight Beekeepers keep watch for these unwelcome invaders who are highly effective predator of insects, including honey bees and other beneficial species, and can cause significant losses to bee colonies, not just through predation, but also because bees are so terrified, they fail to prepare for winter and starve. They also devastate fruit crops.

If you have space, either indoors or outside, to display a poster to help Islanders identify this aggressive species then pop into the IW Observer’s office at 104 St James’ Square in Newport to pick one up.

Anyone wanting more information on any alien invaders can contact Seb Taylor at seb.taylor@naturalenterprise.co.uk, or call him on 296244.