DOZENS OF PLANT and animal species have been identified as invasive species – or potentially invasive – in Ireland. These flora and fauna are putting native Irish species under threat by attacking them directly or competing for their food sources.
Collette O’Flynn of Invasive Species Ireland told TheJournal.ie that the species were identified through the risk assessment of hundreds of plants and animals, and that they can affect human health (such as the giant hogweed in the slideshow below) or have an economic impact.
O’Flynn said that more species are being highlighted as invasive, but that this could be down to the fact that people are looking out for them and reporting them more. Some species have been introduced intentionally, she said. “Around the 1900s, there would have been a lot of plants were introduced into the country and some like giant hogweed have become invasive. There was a culture of ornamental plants and the more exotic the better.”
“There are hundreds [of plant species] introduced into Ireland every year and it’s only a fraction of those that become invasive – about 1 per cent.” A lot of introduced species decline at once, she says, due to climatic conditions, but more recently it is the aquatic species such as pond plants that are becoming invasive.
So what should you do if you see an invasive species?
Basically, don’t rush out to squash/remove/kill the species in question until you’ve checked it out with the relevant authorities because a. some plants spread more quickly if you haven’t removed them correctly and b. you may be confusing the species you’re looking at with the native variety.
“The harlequin ladybirds eat our native ladybirds and other species as well. They’re so variable in how they look and people could get it confused with the native species,” O’Flynn warned. “And if someone thought they had it but it was the wrong one, then they could be destroying the native species.”
She recommends contacting Invasive Species Ireland (details here) with a description of where, when and what was found, and if possible to get a photo. The organisation will then contact the relevant authorities who will advise on how to tackle that species in your situation.
Check out some of the invasive species which have become established in Ireland: