I’ve been reading a lot recently about global warming and climate change and wondering whether the work that I do is just a waste of time. Should we- as David Attenborough suggests, accept that … ‘climate change is happening’ and ‘embrace’ these changes?
Attenborough states that ‘British wildlife is in grave peril of disappearing, 50% of the hedgehog population has gone in 25 years, 90% of the wildlife meadows have disappeared in the last 100 years; 60% of all wildlife is diminishing – with 10% doomed to disappear in the next 10 decades….nowhere in Britain is unsullied.’
Rather than lament these changes he suggest that we accept that new animals and plants are moving North. He suggests that we give thought to wildlife corridors allowing free movement of plants and animals along chosen routes Northward. He also wants us to think that every new arrival should be looked at for their merits rather than have to be repelled.
If an invasive non-native species was gradually making its way Northward due to a changing climate and an increased ability to survive in different regions perhaps this argument could be justified. Maybe a snail or some sort of butterfly accidentally take a trip to Scotland and thinks … ‘you know what …I could live here’…
What is far more likely however is that the snail and the butterfly are taken Northward by some sort of human interaction either accidentally or on purpose – then released – again either accidentally or on purpose….and an invasion begins.
Surely if we accepted every invading species that arrived on our shores – and had an open door policy – then much of our native flora and fauna would just disappear under a deluge of imported aliens….? New species introduced in an area where they do not have inherent predators or diseases immediately have an advantage over the indigenous population…
…surely a little fighting back should be in order?
Many of our problem invasive non-native species were introduced by the Victorians who were ignorant of the problems these plants were going to cause. Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan balsam, Giant Hogweed to name but a few – were all planted as ornamental species and revered amongst the gardeners of the time as being ‘new and exotic’.
Garden centres of the time sold these species – then the new owners gave samples of these plants to friends and neighbours – these weren’t ‘natural’ invasions of species but rather a more commercial enterprise centred on making profit from a ‘new’ product line. Japanese Knotweed was described in the plant catalogues as a… ‘miraculous plant’ which would grow in ‘every possible climate type’…and was ‘good for your health’ when eaten!
So whilst I accept the points made by Mr Attenborough I think some caution needs to be exercised with how we define an ‘invading’ species. Let’s focus on what are problematic and destructive to our current ecosystems and environment and maybe allow the odd butterfly to float past our windows without shooting them out of the sky??