Europe What’s it worth?

Europe, eh? What’s it good for? Apart from Greece having given us the basis of modern philosophy and democracy… and the innumerable advances the Romans brought us… and long-lasting beer (or “lager”), developed by the Germans… and quality wine… and the basis of modern fine dining, as pioneered by the French (especially Escoffier)… and inventions including the automobile, radio and the biro… and easily-accessible, warm, sunny holiday destinations… and huge amounts of bilateral trade, without which our economy would be screwed (well, OK, more screwed).

Well apart from that (and all the other stuff), Europe has given us nothing. Well, almost nothing; recently, the European Environment Agency brought us this lovely, informative report on invasive species.

I like this report because it provides fairly simple explanations of the impact of a large number of invasive species which are present in Europe, including those that are so well-established that many people don’t even realise they’re invaders, such as the grey squirrel and the rabbit.

There are sections covering some of the aquatic invaders which are causing increasing difficulty in UK waterways – including the killer shrimp and zebra mussel, and information about birds, animals and even some insects that I wouldn’t recognise if they bit me.

There are a few organisms missing from the report which I would have like to read more about, including the signal crayfish [Pacifastacus leniusculus] and the fungus which causes ash dieback [Chalara fraxinea].

Happily for me, there are a number of sections on plants, which is much more my sphere of interest. Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and rhododendron are all covered, with information on their range, introduction, impacts and management. There are a number of other plants in there too – some which are present in the UK, and other which we don’t have significant problems with.

Overall, I would recommend it as a great read for someone with an interest in invasive species, and a perfect starting point for someone who wants to learn more.