Conservation action groups from across the South West have been leading the UK’s battle against alien invaders.
The South West Invasive Species Forum, organised by Cornwall- based conservation group SINNG (Student Invasive Non-Native Group) alongside South West Water, was held at Roadford Lake recently with delegates from across the region attending as part of national Invasive Species Week. The aim of the event was to coordinate action and awareness on the impacts of invasive non-native species and a range of organisations collaborated, looking at the problems these species pose and discussing possible solutions.
Animals and plants from all over the world have been introduced to Britain by people and while most are harmless, 10-15% spread and become invasive. This can lead to them harming the environment and our wildlife, impacting on the economy, or even posing a risk to our health and the way we live.
Nicola Morris, a Lecturer at Cornwall College Newquay and Project Coordinator of SINNG, explained: “Most people are familiar with the problems that Japanese knotweed can cause. But other species are becoming a serious problem such as American skunk cabbage and some animal species such as the freshwater zebra mussel.”
Nicola, who chairs both Cornwall and the South West Invasive Species Forum, continued: “I see the invasive species forums, both at county and regional level, being umbrella groups supporting a wide range of stakeholders, able to offer support, share knowledge, expertise and potentially offer practical support where possible. With such a wealth of experience in the west country from people who have been working with invasive species for many years we are in a good position to coordinate management of these invaders in order to be most effective in the control of invasive species and raise awareness of their impacts.”
“The forum was a huge success and I was pleased to see so many people in one room intent on making a difference to the environment in Cornwall by taking action on invasive species. After seeing the huge success of the Cornwall Knotweed Forum over many years I hope this South West Invasive Species Forum could also lead the way in helping to control and limit the impacts of invasive species.”
The West Country is leading the way with this type of conservation work with two new groups now established to tackle the issue on a county scale. Cornwall Invasive Species Forum was set up last year and the Devon Invasive Species Initiative has just been launched under the umbrella of the Devon Local Nature Partnership. Representatives from both groups are working collaboratively to see how they can work together on a regional scale and it is hoped that other county-based invasive species forums will be set up to support a joined-up regional approach to tackle the problems posed by invasive species.
Sue Goodfellow, Chair of the Devon Local Nature Partnership, said: “We are delighted to be establishing a new initiative in Devon, to raise awareness of the increasing problem of invasive non-native species. A diverse group of organisations has come together to take this forwards all with a key aim. It is critical that local organisations, specialists and land owners and managers work together to reduce the spread of invasives.”
Student Jade Clayson from Cornwall College Newquay attended the forum as a SINNG volunteer. Jade said: “I really enjoyed the forum; I’ve spent quite a bit of time volunteering with SINNG and enjoy being part of such a good cause. It brings people together, whether working in this line of work or even having a slight interest. It’s so important for the future of our native wildlife, habitats and ecosystems and without awareness, talk and action we will lose our very important British species.
“Having these forums allows people to share their thoughts, innovative ideas, fears, plans, solutions and the more people involved, the further the word spreads. I love the process of all the work SINNG does and I’m proud to be a part of these wonderful partnerships that involve the community to make the town and nature, a better place.”
Anyone interested in joining the Cornwall or South West INNS Forum please contact Nicola Morris on: firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on the Devon Invasives Initiative can be found at: http://www.naturaldevon.org.uk/home/devon-invasive-species-initiative/