Does your organisation interact with the environment?
How can you ensure your activities are not unintentionally spreading Invasive species?
These are important questions that we need to be asking ourselves when we are undertaking work within the environment. This applies when we are working on ‘High risk’ sites where Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) are known to be present but also applies to sites where there is no obvious sign of INNS.
INNS & Biosecurity
INNS can lead to loss of native biodiversity as well as economic cost. Human activities play a large part in spreading harmful invasive species. Environmental conservation staff, contractors, water sport users and walkers alike can all pose a risk of letting pests and diseases ‘hitch’ a ride on their clothing, equipment and machinery.
Because of this, everyone who has a footfall in the wider environment needs to practice good biosecurity, to ensure important habitats and protected sites don’t become invaded.
Biosecurity entails any measures taken to proactively reduce the risk of unintentionally spreading invasive non-native species and diseases in the wild.
Essentially, it involves employing simple hygienic practices such as cleaning measures that ensure environment users do not transfer INNS propagules (ie life stages of an organism that allow it to disperse, for example seeds and larvae) between sites on their equipment, vehicles, clothing and footwear.
The government has launched public campaigns to raise the awareness around invasive non-native species and biosecurity. These include Check Clean Dry, aimed at ensuring INNS aren’t transferred to new environments, and Be Plant Wise, aimed at gardeners and the horticultural trade to raise awareness around the negative impacts of garden/pond escapees into the wild.
What can you do?
If you and/or your organisation have a footfall in the environment, it is important that you take steps to ensure you are minimising your risk of spreading harmful invasive non-native species whilst carrying out your work.
- It is important to plan your visits and consider risks of spreading INNS at your chosen location/s
- It is important to undertake biosecuirty on site after your activity, following the principles of Check, Clean and Dry.
See the advice below which provides further information about these steps.
Plan your visit
Evaluate and mitigate the risks within your fieldwork itinerary
Check existing records beforehand as to whether INNS are present at that site
Plan the order of your visits. E.g. can you visit a river upstream to downstream?
Think about how you can access the site and whether you can avoid muddy tracks
Avoid, where possible, visiting sites at certain times of the year when seeding times/reproductive rates are at their highest
Think about whether you are visiting any high-risk sites and visit them last
Consider using equipment that is conducive to the uptake of good biosecurity
Is your equipment easy to clean/inspect?
Ensure your equipment is thoroughly dry before you use it again.
Consider bringing duplicate sets of equipment if you haven’t got time to dry it out
Do you have enough cleaning equipment and water with you?
Consider whether you need to take any extra specialist disinfectant with you
Is your vehicle and/or machinery clean?
Ensure you have a plan to deal with any waste material and that you are sourcing your materials from a reputable source
Think about how you can dispose safely of any soil, vegetation or material you are taking away from site
Are your materials (e.g. trees, plants, rubble) coming from a responsible and biosecure source?
If you are using contractors, ensure biosecurity measures are in place for them too
Do contractors follow a biosecurity protocol?
Is their plant and machinery safe and free from contamination?
Will they be able to clean their equipment?
Can they minimise their off-road access, to avoid muddy tracks?
Once you have planned your visit to site it is important to ensure you are conducting any biosecurity measures on site at the end of your task before leaving.
Check Clean Dry is a national biosecurity campaign which has a simple but effective underlying message to help stop the spread of invasive non-native species – clean your boots and equipment before leaving/in between sites.
When working/visiting a site, make sure you check, clean and dry your clothing, equipment, footwear and vehicles:
Check your clothes and equipment for plants and animals. Pay particular attention to damp or hard to inspect areas.
Do this before entering a site, as well as before you leave it.
For a site that contains disease or hard-to-see propagules, an adequate check might be impossible. In this case, consider disinfection, or whether the need to do the work outweighs the risk.
Clean everything thoroughly. Use hot water where possible (45oC) and soak for 15 mins.
Make it as easy as possible for staff, contractors and public to clean equipment, clothing and vehicles. For example, consider setting up cleaning stations at site access points.
When visiting a site, try to select access points that are clean (not muddy) and free from invasive species. Try to restrict vehicle access and parking to areas of hard standing.
You should clean anything that could carry invasive species on every site, every time, even if there are no known invasive species. Disinfectants have a limited impact against invasive species, but may be required if disease is suspected.
Dry everything – some species can live for days in moist conditions, but drying will kill INNS animals and plants.
Equipment may need drying after use in many environments, such as woodland where spores are present, not just aquatic environments. Any indoor space that offers a warm dry environment with good air circulation can be made into a drying room.
Drying for as long as possible is the most effective way to limit the spread of invasive species. As a minimum, equipment should be left to dry for 48 hours.