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UK's Waterway System Under Fire

Aug 27, 2008
Foreign invaders are undertaking a siege of Britain's waterways, leaving respectable domestic species reeling beneath their imported terror. In an attempt to raise awareness about the problem of non-domestic species in the waterway system British Waterways- the people in charge of maintaining the country's waterway system - have produced a list of the twelve animals and plants that, the agency says, pose the greatest threat to our native fish, water plants, towpaths and very way of life.

The agency, who currently spend around 1million pounds a year on alleviating the problems caused by this group of unscrupulous flora and fauna, hope that their finger-pointing will make people more aware of the negative effects that allowing pets and ornamental garden plants into the natural ecosystem can have. So far the listing of the twelve miscreants has not prompted the formation of militant, Wild West style vigilante environmentalist groups, but the fear that this may happen is very real.

Whilst the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 caused wide-scale, many would say credible, speculation about big cats being released in National Parks by owners too timorous to give the creatures up to either the zoo or to the infinite pen in the sky, so too did the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie of the early 1990's lead to a spate of impulsively purchased red-eared terrapins being released into canals and rivers. Each terrapin can live for 25 years or so, and feasts upon insect larvae and bird egg. Their legacy has long outlasted the appeal of the anthropomorphised, smart-Alex film characters, a fact that any caring environmentalist must rue each day.

Another animal up to no good on Britain's once pure 2,200 mile inland water network is the American mink. The mink was brought to Britain the early 1930's with the noble intention of industrial scale slaughter for the fur trade. However, some of the animals either escaped - their planned final destination as a scarf, hat or coat being sinfully abandoned - or have been set free via an underground network of turncoats. Now free to roam the banks and planks of our waterway system, this American import will willingly make dinner out of creatures that would otherwise have had a nice documentary made about them.

Threats are also posed by plants that have escaped from their role as ornamental affixtures upon reputable homes to become grin-faced menaces of our now sullied British Rivers. The giant hogweed, which was originally from Asia and is a member of the parsley family, grows to ridiculous heights - between 10 to 15 feet and thrives on moist river and stream banks. In the 19th century the plant was popular in gardens, however it should be considered unpopular by those who regularly pass it, as the sap contained within its leaves causes burns if the skin comes into contact with strong sunlight.

In a similar story of good plant turned bad, the water fern, a popular plant for pond owners, has invaded large swathes of the British water system, and poses a massive threat to native ecosystems because it floats on the water's surface, blocking sunlight from reaching below. It can out compete with native plants and can also trick bank dwelling animals by looking as though it is a solid surface.
About the Author
Martin Gavin is a writer for ecoswitch
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