South American weevils released in UK waterways to tackle invasive weed

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South American weevils person been released into Britain’s waterways by the authorities successful bid to tackle the invasive taxon floating pennywort.

The industrious bugs are being heralded arsenic a anticipation to chopped backmost the weed, which grows rapidly and blankets rivers and canals, drowning retired the airy and choking the beingness within.

Floating pennywort was brought implicit from North America arsenic an ornamental plant. It tin turn up to 20cm a day, forming dense rafts implicit rivers that are not lone detrimental to biodiversity but disrupt recreational activities specified arsenic sportfishing and canoeing, and exacerbate flood risk.

It is highly antithetic to merchandise non-native taxon into the chaotic to tackle invasive species, and this is the archetypal clip biocontrol has been utilized to tackle pennywort.

Floating pennywort connected  the River Weaver successful  Cheshire.
Floating pennywort connected the River Weaver successful Cheshire. Photograph: Pat Bennett/Alamy

When asked whether the merchandise couldturn into an old-woman-who-swallowed-a-fly situation, with the weevils aboriginal needing to beryllium controlled, officials assured the Guardian that determination had been a decennary of tests into the information of the release. The authorities has besides stressed that releases of weevils are strictly controlled, and necessitate a licence from the Environment Agency.

Richard Benyon, the curate for biosecurity, said: “It is important that we tackle invasive non-native taxon to support our autochthonal plants and animals and safeguard our environment, system and health.

“We each person a relation to play successful stopping the demolition caused by floating pennywort – and the merchandise of the South American weevil volition boost our efforts to eradicate this pest from our waterways erstwhile and for all.”

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The releases were carried retired during the winter, with much planned for this summer. Since 2011, the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), with Defra funding, has been investigating the imaginable usage of a biocontrol cause for floating pennywort. They recovered that Listronotus elongatus were effectual astatine removing it arsenic they laid eggs connected and ate the plant. The larvae besides devour into the stems, reducing its quality to grow.

Djamila Djeddour, a elder technological serviceman astatine CABI, said: “Following years of extended probe into the imaginable biocontrol of floating pennywort, we are pleased and excited to person released the weevil into the wild. Field studies by CABI scientists and collaborators successful South America recovered this weevil to beryllium the astir promising cause and aft broad screening successful CABI’s quarantine installation successful the UK, it was confirmed to beryllium highly specialised, lone feeding and processing connected this damaging weed.

“Further releases volition statesman aboriginal this year, supported by a scope of sponsors, and the weevil’s impact, constitution and dispersed volition beryllium intimately monitored.”

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