Press release 2010/04

Issued by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Strictly embargoed until 00:01am GMT 22nd March 2010


Recording Invasive Species Counts (RISC), launched today in London (22 March 2010), will encourage members of the public to record sightings of six invasive non-native plants and animals within the UK.

Data collected by RISC will help scientists both understand the distribution and ecology of six non-native species, and investigate their impacts on wildlife in the UK. The selected species are Muntjac Deer, Chinese Mitten Crab, Zebra Mussel, Tree of Heaven, American Skunk Cabbage and Creeping Water Primrose.

Welcoming the project Wildlife Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said, “Non-native species that become invasive are one of the greatest threats to wildlife worldwide.  They are estimated to cost the British economy at least £3billion a year, and their impacts can be far reaching – they have adverse impacts on our native wildlife by predation, competition and spread of disease.  They can threaten economic interests such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and development.”

Species sightings will be submitted online and subsequently checked by experts from the relevant national biological recording scheme.  Once verified, records will be added to a national database of species distribution information held by the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat and made available through the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Gateway, which holds data for almost 50 million species records found in the UK. 

RISC is based on the on-line system that has been used for the Harlequin Ladybird Survey since the species was first reported in the UK in 2004. The Harlequin survey, due to a hugely enthusiastic response from the public, has so far successfully collected over 35,000 records of this invasive non-native species.  

Dr Helen Roy, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and RISC project leader, said, “People’s enthusiasm for recording wildlife is inspirational. Over the last five years thousands of people across Britain have contributed records to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey, providing valuable insights into the ecology of this invasive species, its spread throughout the country, and its impact on native wildlife. I am sure that the new surveys launched today, within the Recording Invasive Species Counts project, will be just as successful.” 

Peter Brown, Anglia Ruskin University and RISC Project Co-ordinator, said, “It is important that awareness of non-native species is raised and their effects better understood.  By providing records, members of the public can play a vital role in helping scientists track non-native species and better understand their ecology.”

Wildlife Minister Huw Irranca-Davies added, “The Harlequin Ladybird survey highlights the enormous potential for engaging the public in helping us manage non-native species.  I look forward to seeing the results of this project and urge everyone to get involved in spotting these species and making a report.”

The RISC project is a collaboration between the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the National Biodiversity Network, Anglia Ruskin University and the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat.  Funding has been supplied by Defra. The project is part of the Great Britain Non-Native Species Information Portal which is gathering information on 3,800 non-native species.

Notes to editors

Recording Invasive Species Counts (RISC) will be launched at the Linnean Society of London on 22 March 2010 from 10:30am to midday. Journalists are welcome to attend the launch event. 

Helen Roy (Zoologist at the Biological Records Centre, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and RISC project leader) and Peter Brown (Anglia Ruskin University and RISC project co-ordinator) will be available for interview by phone on Thursday 18, Friday 19 and in London from midday on 22 March. They will also be making presentations at the project launch.

Further information for journalists can be obtained from the CEH press office.

The six species are:

Muntjac Deer - Muntiacus reevesi

Chinese Mitten Crab - Eriocheir sinensis

Zebra Mussel - Dreissena polymorpha

Tree of Heaven - Ailanthus altissima

American Skunk Cabbage - Lysichiton americanus

Creeping Water Primrose - Ludwigia peploides

Public records will be submitted via the website which will go live on 22 March 2010.

GB Non-Native Species Information Portal - Defra has commissioned the development of the GB Non-Native Species Information Portal (GBNNSIP).  The portal will act as a hub for information about all non-native species in Great Britain. The portal is being developed by the Biological Records Centre at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and will link directly to the National Biodiversity Network in order to provide the most current maps and information.  In addition to distribution data and basic information for approximately 3,000 non-native species, the portal will also provide detailed information about several hundred invasive non-native species. The Non-native Species Secretariat has responsibility for helping to coordinate the approach to invasive non-native species in Great Britain and is responsible to a Programme Board which represents the relevant governments and agencies of England, Scotland and Wales.

The National Biodiversity Network (NBN) is a collaboration of the UK’s wildlife organisations, the government and country agencies, and many voluntary groups, all of whom are committed to making biodiversity information available.  The principal way in which the NBN does this is through the NBN Gateway, which acts as a “data warehouse” for biodiversity information.  It is available to all at - The NBN Gateway currently holds almost 50 million species records and is an easy point of access to a very large amount of species data for the UK.   

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, employs more than 450 people at five major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment. CEH manages the NBN Gateway and runs the Biological Records Centre.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funds world-class science, in universities and its own research centres, that increases knowledge and understanding of the natural world. It is tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and natural hazards. NERC receives around £400m a year from the UK government's science budget, which is used to provide independent research and training in the environmental sciences.

Anglia Ruskin University is passionate about the advancement of knowledge and the education of students, and we pride ourselves on taking university education in imaginative new directions.  Our key contribution is to the enhancement of social, cultural and economic well being.  We have two main campuses, in Cambridge and Chelmsford, with over 28,000 students and 1,000 academic staff.