Species impact warning

Species such as beaver, white tailed sea eagles and lynx grab the headlines whenever there are rumours of a re-introduction of these prime species back into the UK. However, it is not just these pyramid-topping animals and birds who are catching the attention. Across the UK, there are plans and proposals to re-introduce plants, animals or fungi back into areas from which they has been lost. The return of the fen orchid or the emerald dragonfly would be major successes for the conservation groups looking to re-establish them. The red kite and the ladybird spider are just two examples of species that have been successfully reintroduced.

As land owners and conservationists work together to increase biodiversity, this process can be beneficial to the wider environment. Taking the example of beavers, they can help with flood management, drainage and improved water quality. The long-term aim – which is at the heart of the government’s 25-year Environment Plan – is nature recovery and the objective is to re-establish a viable population within its natural range.

However, in a response to an inquiry by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, industry bodies have sounded notes of caution when it comes to reintroduction of species.

There are many potential conflicts – economic, social and environmental. Predation on farm livestock, spread of disease, impact upon other species and environmental impact were just some areas of concern highlighted by industry bodies, the National Pig Association (NPA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).

Taking the impact of beavers as an example, the NFU said there was the potential for damage to riverbanks and trees and the beavers’ activity could impede farmland drainage and cause low lying fields to flood.

The NPA has called for close monitoring of any schemes to reintroduce species, with contingency plans to mitigate any adverse issues. In response, the government stressed that any reintroduction project would also need the support of farmers, landowners and river users.

The NFU called for an agreement that any financial impact on a farm business due to a reintroduction scheme should be compensated adequately and an exit strategy should be in place were any major issue to occur.

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