EU study highlights invasive species impact on Czech Republic

Giant Hogweed, photo: Marie-Claire, Creative Commons 3.0

The Czech Republic has been picked out as one of the worst hit countries for invasive plants and animals by a European study. Although the invaders can damage crops and severely impact biodiversity not much has been done so far to counter them. Environmental groups hope the new research could get things moving.

Giant Hogweed,  photo: Marie-Claire,  Creative Commons 3.0
The Czech Republic has been placed fourth in an EU ranking of countries affected by non-native invasive species. More alien species are only present in France, Britain and Belgium.

The ranking comes from the preliminary results of an EU-funded pan-European research project called DAISIE which has mapped out what invasive species have cropped up where across the continent. It found 1,951 alien species active and prospering in the Czech Republic. These are mostly plants, such as the two or three metre high Giant Hogweed but also insects such as the Argentinian ant and the Spanish slug.

European countries are at the moment spending around 12 billion euros a year trying to contain the invasion but this figure is only a fraction of the sums that would need to be spent to really get to grips with the problem.

Petr Stýblo of the Czech Association for Nature Protection says the findings could help spotlight the Czech Republic’s inadequate steps so far to counter the invasion.

“It is a really big problem. But so far the Czech Republic has so far responded very poorly. In fact it has responded in a lax manner. It has not really bothered much about invasive species in spite of the fact that they can cause enormous economic damage and the fact that nature preservation movements worldwide have raised the alarm that the spread of invasive species significantly reduces biodiversity. The Czech Republic is not doing much at the moment and there is inadequate legislation in place to stop these species spreading.”

Argentinian ant,  photo: Penarc,  Creative Commons 3.0
Mr Stýblo says one of the main Czech problems at the moment is the lack of any coordinated steps to fight the invaders. One region might, for example, launch a campaign to stop a plant spreading but nothing is done by its neighbours meaning that it will return.

But he says there are signs that the problem is starting to be recognised here. Media reports last month suggested the Ministry of Agriculture was working on a programme to block subsides to farmers who fail to tackle invasive species on their land. Mr Stýblo again:

“I was very surprised, pleasantly surprised by this proposal. It is exactly the sort of step we should take. Property owners should themselves be actively preventing these species taking hold on their land.”

At a European level, the DAISIE research project is aimed at paving the way for countries to combine much more effectively to stamp out or at least contain the alien invaders.