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Nearly 2000 non-native species established in Great Britain

July 11, 2012
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
A major new report has found that there has been a dramatic increase over time in the number of non-native species arriving in Britain. 

A major new report has found that there has been a dramatic increase over time in the number of non-native species arriving in Britain.

In the six decades from 1950 over 600 non-native species have arrived in Britain. Invasive non-native species are considered to be one of the five major threats to biodiversity, and have been estimated to cost the UK economy £1.7 billion per annum.

The findings are contained within a new report, "Non-Native Species in Great Britain: establishment, detection and reporting to inform effective decision making," which is published July 11.

Although the majority of non-native species are not considered invasive those that are can cause major ecological or socio-economic impacts, and generally become permanent burdens if they establish themselves in the natural environment. Overall about 15% of the species established in Britain are considered to have a negative impact.

The review arises from the GB Non-Native Species Information Portal project funded by Defra and coordinated by the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) in collaboration with the British Trust for Ornithology and the Marine Biological Association. Additional experts nominated by the Biological Records Centre (within CEH) volunteer schemes and societies, provided further information on many of the species. Of particular note was the involvement of the Botanical Society of the British Isles who provided information for all the plant species (the largest group of established non-native species).

The research team looked at how we can enhance the ability to detect and report non-native species in Great Britain, creating a new database of nearly 4000 species within the GB Non-Native Species Information Portal (GB-NNSIP). Nearly 2000 of the species on the database are considered to be established (breeding) in Britain. Data on all of the species can be accessed through the portal's website at:

An integral part of the GB-NNSIP is a rapid-reporting system whereby particularly important new arrivals can be immediately notified to the relevant bodies. One such species, the Asian Hornet, is not yet present in Great Britain but scientists believe could arrive soon, potentially having a serious impact on honey bees and other pollinators on which it preys. Anyone that suspects they have seen this species is encouraged to send in a photograph through the GB-NNSIP's online recording website 'Recording Invasive Species Counts', which can also be used to report sightings of 19 other key species including Water Primrose, American Bullfrog, Carpet Sea-squirt, Tree of heaven, and American skunk-cabbage.

Dr Helen Roy from the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology led the research for the report. She announced the publication of the report at the Organisational Workshop for the Global Invasive Alien Species Information Partnership (9-10 July 2012), convened by the Convention on Biological Diversity, at which she was selected as an expert to represent the United Kingdom. Dr Helen Roy said, "The portal is an excellent example of how collaboration amongst different organisations is vital in addressing potential threats to biodiversity. By sharing information the data compiled give us a comprehensive understanding of non-native species, allowing us to respond rapidly to the arrival of new species. The portal also provides us with a great tool to link with wider European and global initiatives to tackle emerging threats from invasive non-native species."

The review found:

  • There has been an increase over time in the number of non-native species arriving in Britain and those becoming established. 528 species arrived during 1950-1999 compared to 417 species during 1900-1949 and 250 species during 1850-1899. There have been at least a further 125 new arrivals since 2000.
  • Most of the non-native species that are established within Britain originate from Europe. However, in recent decades the rate of new arrivals originating from Europe is slowing and temperate Asia and North America are both becoming major contributors to the non-native fauna and flora of Great Britain.
  • There are 1875 established non-native species in Great Britain in total. The majority are higher plants (1377 species) with Insects as the next most numerous group (278 species).
  • Most (1684 species) of the documented established non-native species are found within the terrestrial environment.

Dr Niall Moore from the Non-native Species Secretariat said, "The Non-native Species Information Portal is a key outcome of Governments' long-term commitment to tackle the serious problems posed by invasive non-native species. It provides us with the basic information we need on which to base objective and sound policy: we need information on trends to see where to put our effort in future years and we need greater public involvement -- provided through RISC. We also need to be alert to new species turning up so we can respond rapidly and hopefully keep them out -- the Asian hornet is a good example."

Dr Gay Marris from the Food and Environment Research Agency said, "By alerting the public and professionals to the highly invasive non-native Asian hornet we can (hopefully) prevent its establishment and therefore reduce the threat to our honey bees, other beneficial insects and even to human health."

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Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. "Nearly 2000 non-native species established in Great Britain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 July 2012. <>.
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. (2012, July 11). Nearly 2000 non-native species established in Great Britain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 22, 2024 from
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. "Nearly 2000 non-native species established in Great Britain." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 22, 2024).

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