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Five invasive pond plants to be banned in the UK

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credit: Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

Five invasive aquatic plants are to be banned from sale because of the threat they pose to native flora and fauna.

Water fern, parrot’s feather, floating pennywort, Australian swamp stone-crop (New Zealand pygmyweed) and water primrose, all non-native plants, escape from garden ponds into the wild, overwhelming native species, and cost millions to control.

Announcing the ban, which will be implemented next year, Environment minister Richard Benyon said: “Tough laws to curb the sale of these plants could save the country millions of pounds as well as protecting wildlife such as fish and native plants.”

The plants form dense mats on the surface of rivers, streams, lakes and ponds, killing off submerged plants and algae and lowering the amount of oxygen in the water, leading to declines in other aquatic species such as invertebrates and fish. They also reduce access for boating and angling and increase the risk of flooding. Invasive alien species as a whole are considered by conservation biologists to be the second greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide after habitat loss.

Floating pennywort, which can grow up to 20cm a day, costs £25.5 million per year in control fees and lost tourism revenue while invasive non-native species as a whole cost the British economy at least £1.7 billion each year.

The ban was welcomed by conservationists. Carrie Hume, Head of Conservation Policy at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust said: “Headlines about ash dieback were just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is that British nature is under relentless attack from a whole host of invasive plants and pathogens that are freely imported and cultivated for sale”

“Thankfully, some of the most destructive non-native plants will no longer be on sale in our garden centres. This is the right move. The environmental and economic cost of dealing with this problem is already huge and dealing with it now is a great saving for the future.”

There are thousands of non-native plant species in Britain, of which only a small number are invasive enough to pose a threat to the wider environment.

Retailers who ignore the ban will face a fine of up to £5,000 and possibly up to six months in prison.

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