We are spoilt in Cumbria by the abundance of beautifully clean & clear lakes, rivers and tarns to play in; whether its skinny dipping, wild swimming, paddling or sailing the Lake District has it all.
What the Lakes don’t need is the hitch hikers that may come with you on your adventure, as Jen Aldous from the South Cumbria Rivers Trust explains.
Ever picked up a hitch hiker? It is quite possible that, completely unbeknown to yourself, you have given a lift to a sneaky hitch hiker or two but not via the traditional method and certainly not human. There is growing concern over the number, abundance and spread of freshwater invasive non-native species (FINNS), both plants and animals throughout the UK. These species are incredibly tenacious and adaptable and the smallest fragment or individual can easily attach itself to a piece of clothing or equipment. Whilst you move from one water course to the next enjoying what you love doing, you may consequently transport and release these species into a new uninhabited water course – only a short time later, devastation begins.
FINNS can have some severely detrimental impacts to the environment and to our social and economic well-being. Some of these include:
• Out-competing native species for light, water and nutrients;
• Carry disease fatal to native species;
• Destabilisation and exposure of river banks during winter to erosion;
• Exacerbate flood risk;
• Block water courses for recreational use;
• Damage infrastructure.
You may wonder how some of these species become so invasive, so here are a few facts:
• Himalayan Balsam – can produce up to 800 seeds per plant which are spread from their exploding seed pods. The seeds also survive dormant for up to 2 years in the soil before germination.
• Japanese knotweed – can reproduce and spread from a piece of root/rhizome the size of your little fingernail (0.6g)!
• Floating pennywort -can grow up to 20cm a day.
• Killer shrimp – can survive out of water for 6 days.
• Crayfish plague – is a fungus carried by the invasive American signal crayfish, fatal to our native white clawed crayfish, which can survive between 6-22 days without a host under wet or damp conditions.
How you can help ditch those hitchers
Although FINNS are present within Cumbria, they are relatively few and we would like to keep it that way and prevent new FINNS being introduced and taking hold. So, what can you do? You can help DITCH THE HITCHERS by undertaking the CHECK CLEAN DRY process:
- Check and clean your wetsuit, clothing and equipment ON SITE of any animals and plant fragments.
- Don’t take anything away with you!
- Dry your clothing and equipment thoroughly before visiting your next venue. Some species can survive a long time in damp conditions.
For more information about Freshwater Invasive Non-Native Species in Cumbria and the UK please look at our website www.scrt.co.uk/cfinns, email [email protected] or telephone 015395 30047.
Invasive Non-Native Species Officer
South Cumbria Rivers Trust