Quagga, a species of foreign mussels was recently found for the first time in the UK in a reservoir near London’s Heathrow Airport. Scientists warned that the invader threatens to wipe out thousands of native fish and animals in the country. Quagga mussels, called Dreissena rostriformis bugensis, are just 5cm long. But their population grows so prolifically that they can smother boat hulls, and block pipes.
Quagga the biggest foreign threat to British wildlife
Earlier this year, Quagga was identified as the single biggest threat to British wildlife of any foreign species. These mussels reportedly originated in Ukraine. Unfortunately, there is no effective way to remove them once they have established in a reservoir. To make the matter worse, scientists said that at least four other alien species have joined Quagga undetected that threaten native shrimp and fish.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge said the south-east of England is at the greatest risk from these invaders. These freshwater species from Ponto-Caspian region in south-east Europe could prey on native freshwater species and alter the ecology of waterways. Scientists estimate that a total of 23 Ponto-Caspian species have the possibility of reaching the UK, including the killer shrimp and demon shrimp.
Dr David Aldridge, co-author of the study, said these predatory shrimps are omnivorous. They might predate on the native fish eggs, shrimps and insect larvae. They can affect many parts of the ecosystem. Quagga and other invaders will likely act as beachheads for more invaders from the Ponto-Caspian region. Many of these organisms have developed a cosy relationship with one another.
How to invaders reach the UK?
The invader species are most likely to reach the UK by ships from the Netherlands. It’s a country that has strong trade relations with the UK, and where 14 of the 23 species are already present in large numbers. But Quagga remains the biggest threat. It can block water pipes in water plants, irrigation systems and power plants.
Quagga can also filter out the blue-green algae, allowing more light to reach the bottom of rivers. It leads to growth of more plants that can clog waterways and pipelines. Findings of the study appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology.