Invasive non-native species on UK Overseas Territories

Human aided introductions of invasive non-native species (INNS), their establishment and spread are globally recognised for negative impacts on native biodiversity, human health and/or the economy (eg, cane toads, several ants). Biodiversity impacts can be particularly large on islands and hence mitigating the impacts of INNS is critical to conserving endemic and native species on islands.

Asiatic rhinoceros beetle sitting in the palm of a hand
Asiatic rhinoceros beetle, a non-native species on Diego Garcia. Photo: Jodey Peyton

Significant knowledge gaps of native and INNS distributions and INNS impacts in UKOTs lead to uncertainty in the prioritisation of management actions, biosecurity, and conservation planning. Funded through the Defra Darwin Plus award and working with the BIOT Administration (BIOTA) and our international team of INNS experts, we will be undertaking amphibian, reptile, invertebrate (including ants and scale insects) and plant surveys to address some of these gaps on the UK Overseas Territory of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Working on Diego Garcia, we will be carrying out surveys in two field campaigns, one in June 2022 and the second in June 2023. The project will provide for the first time DNA-barcodes, supporting species identification for difficult invertebrate taxa from species collected from Diego Garcia. This will facilitate future meta-barcoding approaches using bulk samples, gut contents and environmental DNA, allowing surveillance at greatly reduced costs. 

Non-native species on Diego Garcia Averrhoa bilimbi. Photo credit Oliver Pescott

Averrhoa bilimbi - a non-native tree species on Diego Garcia. Photo credit Oliver Pescott

Rattus rattus (black rat)

A black rat, an invasive non-native species pictured on Diego Garcia in 2018. Photo credit Jodey Peyton

We are collaborating closely with local authorities and key stakeholders and with the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat, we are increasing awareness of biosecurity issues. Through increasing knowledge and capacity, the project will mitigate impacts of existing, and prevent future, introductions of INNS on Diego Garcia and the wider archipelago.

Our project partners are: BIOT Administration, Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, SWCA Consultants in Hawai'i, Natural History Museum, GB Non-native Species Secretariat, Fera Science, Instituut Natuur - En Bosonderzoek in Belgium, University of Florence in Italy and Umweltbundesamt in Austria.   

British Indian Ocean Territory

Project Leader
Dr. Nadine Mitschunas
Entomologist (working in interactions)