Aliens in our mindst

Summer sees more people exploring the countryside, admiring the plants and animals. However, not all is as it seems, aliens might be lurking in the undergrowth! Sarah Smyth, our Biodiversity Implementation Officer, explains how work is afoot to tackle this issue and an innovative online approach should prove very helpful.

 Invasive non-native species are a major concern. It is estimated that in Britain alone they cost the economy £1.7 billion every year. They can also harm native species by spreading diseases, out-competing them or even eating them!

North American signal crayfish arrived in Europe in the 1960s. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

North American signal crayfish arrived in Europe in the 1960s. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

To help people who want to learn more about non-native species we’ve helped produce an e-learning module which is available free online. With lots of examples to illustrate the problem, the course looks at why invasive non-native species are a concern; how many there are; their impacts; how they got here; and what we can do about them.

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is an invasive non native plant. © Lorne Gill/SNH

Himalayan Balsam is an invasive non=native plant. © Lorne Gill/SNH

The e-learning package currently covers five topics:

  •  Introduction to invasive non-native species
  • Introduction to identification and recording
  • Identification of invasive freshwater plants
  • Identification of invasive freshwater invertebrates
  • Identification of invasive riparian plants

A test is available for each topic and once you have completed all five you can take a test covering everything you’ve learned on the course. Pass this and you’ll be awarded a certificate to print and hang with pride!

Giant Hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum, growing by the River Tay in Perth._©Lorne Gill/SNH

Giant Hogweed by the River Tay, Perth. © Lorne Gill/SNH

So keep your eyes peeled next time you are out for a walk and if you see something a bit different please record it using irecord or the Nature Locator mobile phone app. You may have spotted an alien and by recording it you will have contributed to the national picture of non-native species! More information is available on our website. You can register and begin the course here.

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