Catfish, fire ant, hakea: Which 22 animals and plants have been added to the list of invasive species in Europe?

A terrible plague on ecosystems and local biodiversity. Invasive alien species, or “invasive species”, are animals and plants introduced by humans – voluntarily or accidentally – outside their original habitat.

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Following a public consultation, the draft executive order on “updating the lists of invasive alien animal and plant species in the metropolitan area” was finally adopted in the EU. The list counts 22 additional species :

  • The cat (Ameiurus melas),
  • Ax deer or chital (Axis axis),
  • Finlaysons squirrel (Callosciurus finlaysonii),
  • Celastrum orbicularis (Celastrus orbiculatus) – and climbing plants,
  • The northern snake head (Channa argues)
  • The red-spotted crayfish (Faxonius rusticus),
  • Deathclaw Fish (Fundulus heteroclitus),
  • Gambusia (Gambusia affinis and Gambusia Holbrooki) – two species of fish,
  • Silkehakea (Hakea sericea) – a thorny shrub,
  • Himalayan knotweed (Persicaria polystacha) – an herbaceous plant,
  • Snake King (Lampropeltis getula),
  • The dwarf mussel or Australian mussel (Xenostrobus securis / Limnoperna fortunei),
  • perch fish (idiot americana),
  • water salad (Pistia stratioter),
  • The red-bellied bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) – a bird of the sparrow family,
  • Japanese brown seaweed or Okamura dictyote (Rugulopteryx Okamurae)
  • fire ants (Solenopsis geminata, Solenopsis invicta, Solenopsis richteri & Wasmannia auropunctata) – four species of tropical ants,
  • Xenopus smooth (Xenopus laevis) – a toad.

Catfish and orange-spotted crayfish, aquatic invasive species

Among the new “newcomers” are six fish species. The common catfish, which comes from North America, can be recognized by the barbells that adorn its mouth and which resemble whiskers – a trait it shares with a close species, the catfish.

Introduced in France in 1871, the catfish would have fled from the basins of the Natural History Museum in Paris to join the Seine via the sewer network (GT IBMA, 2016). Anglers favored its presence and took advantage of its famous meat.

Like the snake’s head – which is also on the EU’s list of invasive alien species, catfish are problematic because of their detrimental effect on the survival of local pike.

Underwater, the orange-spotted crayfish is one of the most formidable invasive species to make the list. Coming from the Ohio River Basin in the United States, this crustacean was reported in Aveyron in 2019 (UICN France and AFB, 2019).

Not only does its particularly aggressive behavior cause colossal damage to aquatic fauna and flora, but the orange-spotted crayfish also carries a disease-causing microscopic fungus in the body – deadly to native crayfish.

On dry land, take care of fire ants and silky soft hakea

Of the invasive plants added to the EU list of invasive alien species, silky hake is only sweet in name. Covered with needles, this plant was introduced in France from Australia in the early 20th century to form hedges. However, the hakea is highly flammable and promotes fires (GT IBMA, 2016).

Burning is therefore not the most recommended method of getting rid of them, due to the obvious risk to the ecosystem. Another solution, however, could come from “biological control”, that is, the use of a living creature – in this case a fungus – that is capable of attacking the attacker. It remains to be seen whether the chosen excipient is not itself … an invasive species!

If the main consequence of invasive species is to disrupt local ecosystems – which also counts among the main causes of the decline in biodiversity in the same way as climate change and loss of natural habitats, they can also have consequences for human health.

This is especially the case with the fearsome fire ants. Their bite causes extremely painful burns and itching, which is likely to cause allergies – even in some exceptional cases death due to anaphylactic shock (IUCN France). IN USA, Solenopsis invicta would thus be responsible for 12 human deaths since his arrival in 1930.

The smallest species of fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata, nicknamed “electric ant” because of the electric shock sensation felt under its poisonous bite, which can blind dogs and cats. At European level, nests of this invasive species – native to Central and South America – have been seen under greenhouses in England.

If the workers measure barely a millimeter, they still do not hesitate to attack animals that are much larger than them: toads, for example, can be part of their diet.

Exotic … but not always invasive

Like Finlayson’s squirrels – native to the Indochinese region and causing damage in Italy – or the king snake, which currently rages only in the Canary Islands (Spain), some of the animals added to the list of invasive alien species in the EU are not (yet)) present in the metropolitan area of ​​France.

A few species included in this list have not even been seen on the European continent – especially white perch, a North American fish of the perch family – but their classification in this case means that measures will be taken to prevent their arrival. .

As for those who – unfortunately – have already crossed our borders, their inclusion in the list involves both surveillance and management measures (destruction, hunting, etc.) as well as a framework for their detention of individuals or of institutions open to the public.

However, not all species introduced by humans necessarily become invasive: only about 10 to 15% are said to be invasive, like the tiger mosquito. The majority, on the other hand, manage to integrate their host environment without (in) competing with local species for food or spreading disease.

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However, other species, including newly arrived ones, retain a controversial status. This is the case, for example, with the rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri) with light green plumage, native to the tropical forests of sub-Saharan Africa and India – from which it was imported into captivity before escaping and then settling in the Paris region in the 1970s.

If this bird is listed on the list of invasive alien species at the French level, a study published by researchers from the University of Paris-Saclay and the National Museum of Natural History (Science of the total environment27/05/2020) nevertheless tends to show that it does not compete with local species for food resources.

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