The UK Wants Only Native Species

Earlier this month the Department for Environmental Foods and Rural Affairs announced that it will clamp down on the number and type of species allowed into the UK. The goal is to protect habitat for native species. According to Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change and Biodiversity, there are both environmental (habitat degredation) and economic (to the tune of £2 billion per year) impacts.

Some of the biggest culprits: the American bullfrog, various crayfish, rhododendron, Japanese knotweed and water hyacinth. Some of the new non-natives to make the list: grass carp, rosey-faced lovebird, water fern and Virginia creeper. DEFRA also reports that there are roughly 2,700 non-native species of concern in the UK, 1,800 of which are plants.

Concern about invasive species is not new. Invasive species rank second in the list of threats to native creatures and biodiversity (behind habitat destruction). Some species were actually introduced in areas for some ecological purpose only to create a scenario reminiscent of the old lady who swallowed a fly – showing that mankind cannot really improve on nature. If you’ve ever driven across the Southeast you’ve seen how kudzu takes over and if you live western Montana (like I do) you regret the loss of once thriving westslope cutthroat trout populations in the lakes and rivers.

What you can do… Inform yourself about plants that are native to your area – almost all species are regional at best – and which ones provide habitat for native fauna. Ask yourself (and your local garden supply store) about native plants that will serve the same function as non-native ones. Support others who are restoring habitat in your local area. And don’t worry, go ahead and plant your garden.

For more information on invasive species in different US regions, click here.

Department for Environmental Foods and Rural Affairs

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