EU-funded researchers participating in the Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe (DAISIE) project have investigated the impact of 100 of the most damaging invasive species in Europe.

The research, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, is a preliminary investigation which will contribute to the EU’s Strategy on Invasive Alien Species.

The researchers estimated that invasive species cost Europe €12bn (£10bn) a year to monitor and control.

“Reliable, detailed information on the most invasive alien species is an essential tool for preventing their spread and impact, and for applying effective and appropriate control strategies,” said a DAISIE spokesman.

He added: “Alien species can act as vectors for new diseases, alter ecosystems, reduce biodiversity, disrupt the cultural landscape and cause other socio-economic consequences for humans.”

Of the 100 most invasive species, a significant number occur in the UK. Canada geese and sika deer threaten to hybridize with other species.

Sika deer in Scotland also have the potential to cause millions of pounds’ worth of damage due to browsing and trampling crops.

Also on the list are grey squirrels, which are causing the extinction of native red squirrels through competitive exclusion.

Brown rats have contributed to the disappearance of several marine bird populations and carry the hepatitis E virus, while the ongoing ruddy duck eradication programme has so far cost 4.4million euros.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Dr Stephen Tapper said this research should encourage the government to take more decisive action: “We should do more to tackle the UK’s invasive species with more co-ordinated efforts. Only rarely has this been done. In the past there were very successful eradication programmes against muskrat and coypu, but initiatives against others such as mink and grey squirrels have been characterised by half measures and a lack of will.”

To read the full report, visit www.europe-aliens.org

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