EU Ban on Invasive Species could lead to loss of threatened plants

Plant Heritage is warning that the proposed new European legislation on Invasive Species could lead to plants which have little or no risk of being invasive being entirely lost to horticulture.
Whilst the charity supports the need for control of non-native invasive species it is concerned that, in the haste to protect our native flora the importance of ornamentals to our culture and economy is not overlooked. It is likely that there are more than 100,000 taxa of garden plants in the UK, compared to about 1,500 UK native species. These plants give an enormous amount of pleasure, not to mention employment and should not be further demonised.
Referring to these latest developments Plant Heritage Conservation Officer Mercy Morris said that great care should be taken when selecting plants for the blacklist, and that all plants added over the coming year should be there on a basis of evidence and risk assessment for the taxon and area concerned. She warns that if the blacklist is to cover the entire EU then many plants may be unnecessarily lost altogether.
Speaking on the preparation of the list Ms Morris said: “Whilst it is true that we need to anticipate changes in potential invasiveness of plants due to climate change, we also need to consider whether climate change would cause a change in their natural range. By adding these to the list we might endanger their long term future.”
The charity is also concerned that a lack of knowledge and public education could lead to entire genera becoming at risk. If people are unable to distinguish an invasive species from a non – invasive, the potential risk is that the ‘type’ in question could be deemed a threat. Looking at Cotoneaster as an example, some are listed as invasive on the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, although many are harmless in the UK. At present the most qualified person to identify and advise on Cotoneaster species would be a National Plant Collection Holder of that genus. However, Ms Morris warned that if all potentially invasive plants were banned from sale, many ‘amateur’ Collection Holders would not be able to amass collections, which are so vital for research and identification.
“The most important factor in any legislation of this type that affects the general public is education; without that any blacklist is meaningless. Gardeners are the most generous people in the world; if they don’t realise that what is in their garden may already be a threat and should not be given away, sold at a boot sale or taken to the tip then the battle has already been lost” she added.
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