Posts Tagged ‘alien species’

Nature Ramble

Aliens are on the March!


Warning as alien mussels found near Heathrow airport

Species that could devastate wetlands and ‘cost millions in tax and water bills’, identified as greatest single threat to UK wildlife

Mussels measure less than 5cm but breed so prolifically that their vast colonies can potentially cause flooding. Photograph: David Aldridge, Cambridge University/.

A type of mussel recently identified by scientists as the greatest single threat to Britain’s wildlife of any alien species has been found for the first time in a reservoir near Heathrow airport. Discovery of the quagga mussels at Wraysbury reservoir poses a severe threat to thousands of native animals and diverse habitats. They also disrupt water supplies by blocking pipes and causing flooding.

Although the molluscs, originally from the Ukraine, grow to less than 5cm long they breed so prolifically that their vast colonies attach to hard surfaces and are difficult to remove. They are threatening to block the water supply in Las Vegas after flourishing in Lake Mead and colonising the Hoover dam’s turbines.

Wildlife experts have described them as ecosystem engineers due to their capacity to filter water, which upsets the natural balance of the food web as they eat pollutants then turn them into concentrated toxic faeces which can poison drinking water for both wildlife and people.

The Wildlife and Wetland Trust, which made the discovery last week, said the non-native mussel was “the number one most dangerous alien species” and added that the threat to British wetlands could be devastating.

Jeff Knott, WWT’s head of conservation policy, said: “This is worrying, but entirely predictable. Quagga mussels are likely to indirectly cause suffering and death for hundreds of thousands of native animals, fish and plants and cost millions of pounds in tax and water bills to protect drinking water supplies.

“These tiny mussels can be devastating but look so innocuous, which is why it’s so difficult for boaters, anglers and other water users to avoid accidentally transferring them between water bodies when they latch on to their equipment. That’s why it’s so important for all water users to remember the motto ‘clean, check, dry’ when they pack up their equipment to help slow the spread.”

He said the devastating effect of the mussels is why the UK needs stronger controls on invasive species being brought into the country as prevention is far cheaper and more effective than trying to control an established infestation. “We need to protect the UK against the next invasive species,” he added.

A trust spokesman said the WWT’s London Wetland Centre, downstream from Wraysbury “is the sort of place [where] they’ll wreak havoc with the wildlife, if left unchecked”.

The spread of quagga mussels is often due to human activity as the adult bivalves, which can produce a million eggs a season, attach themselves to boats.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it would take action to tackle the threat. A spokesman said: “It is important that we take action to address the threats posed by invasive non-native species. They threaten the survival our own plants and animals and cost the economy at least £1.8bn a year

“We will be working closely with interested parties and our agencies to reduce the risk of the quagga mussel spreading any further. Users of our waterways can help with this by checking their equipment and keeping it clean and dry.”

Research by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in June described the molluscs as “the top ranking threat to our natural biodiversity”. It had predicted quagga mussels would arrive in the UK within the next five years.

Helen Roy, one of the scientists involved in the research, said that after looking at hundreds of species from all over the world the quagga mussel was the most likely to arrive and establish itself in the UK and pose a danger to biodiversity.

It can be hard to distinguish from the zebra mussel, another alien bivalve which is already widespread in England and Wales.

Source: TheGuardian

Make you Fink on Friday

Here we go again!

Once again man has acted before thinking through the consequences.

Invasive ladybirds wage ‘biological war’ on natives

The Asian Ladybird or harlequin has overpowered native species across Europe

German researchers have discovered the biological keys to the success of an invasive species, wreaking havoc across Europe and the US,

The Asian ladybird was originally brought in to control aphids in greenhouses.

But it has escaped and is increasing uncontrollably across Europe, wiping out native species.

The alien is winning, say scientists, because its body fluid contains a parasite toxic to other insects.

The research is published in the Journal, Science.

Sometimes called the harlequin, the Asian ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) can devour over two hundred aphids a day.

They are seen as a natural and effective solution to the problems posed by these pests in greenhouses.

Killer bugs

But in recent years these imported ladybirds have escaped and rapidly established themselves across Europe and North America at the expense of native species.

In Autumn, the Asian invaders can be a nuisance as they congregate in large groups searching for sheltered locations to hibernate.

They can sometimes cause serious allergic reactions in humans.

The larvae of the Asian ladybird can poison any native who eats it

In this new research, scientists have shown that it is the biological system of the Asian ladybird that gives it the edge when it comes to competing with native species.

The invader has an extremely powerful immune system.

The body fluid of the insect contains a strong antibiotic compound called harmonine as well as antimicrobial peptides. These allow the invasive to fight off pathogens more effectively than natives.

So powerful are the antibiotic elements in the ladybird, that the researchers say they may prove to be promising targets for drug development.

But the most powerful aspects of the ladybird’s biological armoury are tiny fungi called microsporidia.

“They keep them inactive in their own blood, we don’t understand how they do it yet,” said Dr Heiko Vogel from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology,

“But when the other ladybird beetles start to attack the invader’s eggs and larvae, they become active and kill the native ones.”

The ladybird’s immune systems have strong antimicrobial properties

Several studies in recent years have shown the harlequin conquering other ladybirds across Europe. In the UK scientists found that seven of the eight native British species have declined. Similar problems have been encountered in Belgium and Switzerland.

In the UK, researchers are very keen for people to report any sightings of the harlequin. They have just launched a smartphone app that helps people record details of the ladybirds.

Dr Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology near Wallingford, UK, said the German research was “fascinating”. The outlook for native species, however, remained grim.

“The two-spot ladybird, a historically common and widespread species in Britain is suffering the most and experiencing dramatic and rapid declines,” she said.

And the German scientists agree that the Asian ladybird is set to conquer most of the world.

“I don’t see any which way to stop them now – it’s too late in my opinion,”…


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Man is too adept at trying to change the course of nature without considering the consequences.

Whether is is well-meaning or just straight ignorance we have to stop meddling with the natural order of things.

If there is money involved, then the consequences don’t even matter, just plough ahead and face the music if necessary.



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