Hornets, mosquitos and parakeets: 5 wild species from abroad that are heading for East Anglia
- Credit: Archant
Experts give their views on the new invasive species that have the best chance of establishing themselves in our region.
Today, there are estimated to be over 3,000 non-native flora and fauna in England, Scotland and Wales, of which almost 2,000 - mostly plants - have established and are reproducing in the wild. It has been calculated that at least 275 (9%) are causing negative impacts, such as crowding out native species or spreading pathogens.
With global trade making it easier for foreign species to inadvertently travel to our shores, more alien invaders are expected in the years to come. We asked experts what new species from abroad they believe could become established in East Anglia in years to become.
Beekeepers across East Anglia wait in dread for the news that the Asian hornet has arrived in the region.
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Smaller than the European hornet, this unwelcome visitor is believed to have come to the continent after some fertile queens were inadvertently shipped to France in a container load of ceramic pottery from eastern China. It is now working its way northwards and a number of nests have already been discovered in Gloucestershire.
The Asian hornet feeds on hoverflies, wasps and loves honeybees - decimating whole hives - and one queen can produce up to 6,000 young in a summer.
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This dazzling green ring-necked parakeet has been a common sight in London's parks for several decades, adding a splash of South Asian colour to proceedings.
Dubbed a 'posh pigeon' by Londoners, it is likely that the world's northern most parrot came to establish itself in England after a number of escapes from aviaries - one story is that today's flocks are descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during the filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.
The birds seem to prefer city centre parks, which because of their urban setting are a few degrees warmer than rural locations, and there are concerns about their potential impact on native bird species such as woodpeckers, starlings and nuthatches, through competition for nest holes.
And with recent sightings in Ipswich's Christchurch Park and Norwich, chair of Suffolk Bird Group, Edward Jackson, predicts we will be seeing more of the rose-ringed parakeet in our region in years to come.
While floating pennywort and New Zealand pigmyweed are already causing problems clogging East Anglian waterways, Plantlife's conservation manager for the East of England, Tim Pankhurst, says the water primrose is on his radar as an aquatic invasive non-native plant to look out for.
Thought to have arrived through garden centres, the sale of this attractive South American plant has been banned since 2014. Its rampant growth out-competes native species and its dense vegetation can contribute to flooding. It spreads primarily by stem fragments but also by seeds which means it can spread quickly and make eradication difficult.
The larvae of the tiger mosquito are believed to have arrived into Europe in small pools of water found in car tyres and bamboo transported from Asia.
Over the past decade, public health experts have been concerned that the pathogen-carrying insects will cause the spread of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and the Zika virus to the West. They are already in Italy and southern France and as climate change raises temperatures, there are fears that Britain could be hosting breeding populations by 2030.
Paul Hetherington at Buglife points to the marshes of Essex, with their close vicinity to the international trade hub of the Thames Gateway, as a perfect breeding ground for the future.
Originally from the Caspian Sea region, the killer shrimp first turned up in the UK at Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire in 2010 before being identified in the Broads two years later, sparking fears that its appetite for damselflies, small fish, water boatmen and native freshwater shrimp could damage the eco-system of this precious area.
But, according to Andrea Kelly at the Broads Authority, a concerted publicity campaign asking river users to routinely check equipment, including boats, clothing and fishing gear that has been in contact with the water, and to wash and dry it, has been successful.
It is also thought the silty Broads is not a habitat where the crustacean can thrive.
However, conservationists remain vigilant.