The impact of invasive species to our native wildlife and waterways has been well documented with millions of pounds being spent clearing them from congested ponds and rivers. Delicate habitats and species have been pushed to extinction under carpets of New Zealand pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii), and despite numerous trials to tackle this weed, none has proved effective or adequate. Yet the rate ,of spread of invasive species continues to increase, as does the number being introduced into Britain.

In Cumbria we are fortunate to only have a relatively small number of invasive species. But the Lake District attracts millions of visitors each year to enjoy our beautiful countryside, to walk in the fells, kayak in rivers and swim in the lakes. And with this influx of visitors comes the hidden threat that another invader could inadvertently be introduced into our water system.

Depending on the species introduced, the effect could be dramatic, and the measures needed to tackle the problem could significantly effect how we are able to access our rivers and lakes in the future. The environmental damage caused by invasive non-native plants can be irreversible, and the impact on tourism, and therefore our economy, would be equally significant. Not to mention the resident communities who live and enjoy the water environment.

How they affect you

Whether you knew it or not, you are involved! If you are reading this, chances are you care. Cumbria’s unique freshwater environment is increasingly under threat from INNS. When they become established out of their native locations some species can cause severe and sometimes irreversible damage to the environment.

- The way you live; INNS can have direct impacts on our health. Giant hogweed for example contains photosynthetic venom which when touched caused blistering burns to the skin. Species such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam can also increase the possibility of flooding in highly infested areas.

- The Environment; Impacts of INNS are so significant, they are considered to be one of the greatest threats to biodiversity worldwide. They threaten the survival of rare native species such as the white clawed crayfish and damage sensitive ecosystems and habitats like freshwaters and wet woodlands.

- The Economy; INNS cost the British economy approximately £1.7 billion every year! Japanese knotweed can cause huge damage to man-made structures like building foundations and tarmac roads and floating pennywort can choke water causes, preventing recreational uses of freshwaters.INNS are not a one off event. The longer we wait to do something about them, the more resources, time and effort it is going to take. You play a vital role in protecting Cumbria’s freshwater.