Invasive alien species

Non-native species are those that have been introduced, either intentionally or unintentionally, outside their natural range. Many of these non-native species live in harmony with our native species causing no adverse impacts. However a few non-native species have become known as ‘invasive’ as they thrive in our habitats and out-compete our native flora and fauna.

Impact on the environment

Non-native invasive species are also known as invasive alien species.
They are widely recognised as one of the biggest threats to our native biodiversity, second only to that caused by habitat destruction. They not only have negative environmental impacts, but they can also adversely impact on recreational activities such as walking, boating, fishing, swimming and various other water-based leisure pursuits.

They can also have serious associated economic costs. Once an invasive species has established within a habitat it can spread rapidly, out-competing native species.The spread of most invasive plant species is by plant fragments or seed. 

Invertebrates or mammals can move independently within aquatic or terrestrial habitats or hitch rides on the hulls of boats or on equipment. 

Northern Ireland has been subject to the impacts of many invasive alien species. Within a relatively short time-scale we have already witnessed the establishment of species which are currently having a detrimental effect upon our local biodiversity.

An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Northern Ireland

In response to the threats posed by invasive alien species the Department of Environment has published ‘An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Northern Ireland’. The aim of the Strategy is to minimise the risk posed, and reduce the negative impacts caused, by invasive alien species in Northern Ireland, increasing awareness and understanding of the risks and issues involved in tackling invasive alien species is a central overarching issue.

EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species

In November 2014 the European Union published a new Regulation (EU) 1143/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

The EU Regulation came into force on 1 January 2015 and addresses the problem of certain European wide invasive alien species in a comprehensive manner. It aims to establish a more consistent approach to tackling those invasive alien species.

A core provision of the EU Regulation is a list of invasive alien species of Union concern (‘the Union list’), which are species whose potential adverse impacts across the European Union are such that concerted action across Europe is required.

The first Union list of 37 species (14 plants and 23 animals) was adopted on 4 December 2015 and came into force on 3 August 2016.

The first update of the Union list which added a further 12 species (9 plants and 3 animals) was adopted on 12 July 2017 and enters into force on 2  August 2017.

In addition to the general FAQ which the Commission has published on its website, the UK has also produced its own FAQ for UK stakeholders which can be found on the GB Non Native Species Secretariat website.

The Department proposes to make subordinate legislation using section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 in line with the rest of the devolved administrations.

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