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ALIEN INVADERS; Hit squad to target 'wrecking' species.

Byline: By Magnus Gardham

A CRACKDOWN on the alien species wrecking Scotland's countryside starts today.

The Executive will launch an expert hit squad to seek out and destroy non-native animals and plants which are upsetting the delicate balance of nature.

Nearly 1000 mammals, birds, fish, insects and plants have been introduced to Scotland - and many cause irreparable harm.

They include the New Zealand flatworm, which is devouring earthworms and ruining farmland across the Central Belt.

The worm - Latin name Arthurdendyus triangulatus - arrived in a clump of soil carried by a hitchhiker who came to Scotland selling plants.

Like many alien species, it thrived because it has no natural predators.

Birds, badgers and moles keep native worms down - but find the New Zealand species unpalatable.

The hit-list also includes a piranha-like English fish called the ruffe. Latin name Gymnocephalus cernuus, it has infested Loch Lomond since it was introduced by fishermen in the early 1980s.

It scoffs fish eggs, leaving the rare Scots powan fighting for survival.

Experts have warned it will wreck fish-farming operations and angling if it spreads.

The American mink - Mustela vison - which is widespread in the Western Isles, will also be targeted.

It eats fish, birds and small mammals and has hunted the native water vole close to extinction.

Alien plants include the rhododendron, introduced in 1763.

The fast-growing species is poisonous to other plants and has wiped out woodland habitats.

And the Japanese knotweed is strangling our riverbanks to death.

Introduced by 19th century botanists, it stops other plants growing and its roots can burst tarmac.

CAPTION(S):

WANTED; Japanese knotweed
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 3, 2005
Words:265
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