Boaters, anglers and others who visit the River Ouse around Bedford are being asked to report any sightings of floating pennywort to the Environment Agency.
Floating pennywort is an aquatic weed native to South America. The plant can quickly establish dense mats of vegetation, out-competing native species and dominating watercourses. The plant chokes waterways making it difficult for boats to navigate and increases the risk of flooding by clogging channels. It can also pose a threat to fish and other aquatic life by starving the water of light, oxygen and nutrients.
The plant has not been spotted on this part of the Ouse before and the Environment Agency will be carrying out work to control the known patches this week. If treated early there is a good chance of eradicating it on this part of the river.
Nina Birkby, Officer at the Environment Agency, said
If people do see floating pennywort, which can grow up to 20cm a day, it is vital they don’t contribute to its spread. Boats should not be driven directly through clumps of the plant as it can break off pieces which will then re-grow elsewhere. Avoid picking and discarding pieces of the plant as these can grow and colonise new areas.
We would also encourage people who are out and about to help to track down these problem plants and if they spot any patches they should report them to the Environment Agency on 03708 506506. They can also use a free App called ‘PlantTracker’.
PlantTracker is available free from the iTunes App Store and Android Market by searching for PlantTracker (one word), or from the PlantTracker website.
Floating pennywort first came into Britain during the 1980s as a plant for tropical aquariums and garden ponds, but by 1991 it had escaped into the wild. The plant is normally found in tropical aquaria and garden ponds. It is, however, being found more and more in rivers across the country and is a common problem on the Ely Ouse.
Invasive non-native species cost the UK economy £1.9bn every year. Preventative action and investment to stop the spread and protect the UK’s rich biodiversity is essential so Check, Clean, Dry
Check, Clean, Dry is a simple approach to reducing the risk of spreading invasives from one watercourse to another. Prevention is the cheapest and most effective method of controlling invasive species, which can cause profound, and often irreversible, damage to habitats. By thoroughly checking, cleaning and drying equipment that’s been used in a waterbody before putting it into another you can dramatically reduce the risk of transferring unwanted and invasive species to a new location.
Images of Invasive Non-Native Species are available on the GB Non-native Species Secretariat website and on Flickr