Uninvited guests pose danger

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Thousands of non-native species of plants and animals pose a growing threat to humans and biodiversity in Europe, a pan-European agency said Thursday. The European Environment Agency (EEA) estimated there were over 10,000 alien species in Europe, of which at least 15 per cent had a negative effect.

The number of species was likely to increase due to the growing global movement of people and goods, while climate change could generate conditions favourable to alien species.

The main activities behind the introduction of non-native species are horticulture, farming, hunting, and fishing as was the use of some species as pets, the EEA said.

Alien or non-native species add additional pressure on ecosystems “weakened by pollution, climate change and fragmentation,” said Jacqueline McGlade, head of the Copenhagen-based agency.

Some of those miscreants

Some species have been introduced accidentally, such as zebra mussels found in European lakes after having stowed away in ballast water of ships. The mussels can foul water filtration plants.

For humans, invasive species pose a risk mainly as a carrier of disease. One example was the Asian tiger mosquito, which is linked to more than 20 diseases, including yellow fever. The insect arrived via the trade in used tyres, and is now prevalent in Italy and several southern European countries.

Common ragweed, originally from North America, was cited as “a powerful trigger of hayfever and other allergies.” Non-alien species could also cause damage to existing wildlife.

Beehives of honeybees in France have been destroyed by the yellow-legged hornet, which is native to Asia.

The American mink, originally brought to Europe for fur farming, posed a challenge to its European cousin and threatened local wildlife, notably ground-nesting birds.DPA



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