The unique landscapes of areas of the UK, including the Yorkshire Dales, are threatened by the accidental introduction of invasive non-native species (INNS), which may be plants or animals, and are a leading driver of biodiversity decline. Furthermore, they threaten ecosystem services including water supplies, impact human health and wellbeing, and increase flood risk. INNS threaten the native species, which are important for conservation, tourism and the local economy. They result in an economic burden due to their harmful effects on agriculture and businesses, costing the UK £2bn pa. Biosecurity is the first line of defence against the introduction and spread of these harmful organisms.
Professor Alison Dunn and colleagues at Leeds have worked extensively with stakeholder organisations in the Yorkshire Dales to identify high risk pathways for the spread of INNS and develop evidence-based biosecurity protocols.. The research identified gaps in policy and a need for coordinated approach to biosecurity, which led Professor Dunn to set up the Yorkshire Dales INNS Steering Group, with partner organisations responsible for Environmental stewardship across the Yorkshire Dales, including government organisations, charities, water companies and conservation organisations. The mission of the steering group is to coordinate INNS work across the region.
The research has led to identification of the major pathways through which the invasive species can be introduced. Further research conducted with the partner organisations identified barriers to biosecurity and stakeholder requirements including the need for cost effective, evidence-based biosecurity guidance, and coordinated biosecurity policy.
In 2017, The Steering Group produced a coordinated INNS strategy for the region and identified a Red List of INNS of high concern. Professor Dunn’s research has identified the most effective methods to improve biosecurity practices for different INNS and stop the spread of these species from one site to another. Professor Dunn developed risk assessments, evidence-based INNS biosecurity guidance and protocols tailored for the organisations.
The team have also developed on-line biosecurity training, which has been completed by more than 1,000 professionals, and has led to a marked increase in the employment of biosecurity measures in the environment.
INNS biosecurity is now included in the management plans for the Yorkshire Dales National Park (which covers 9% of the UK) and the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Prof Dunn gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry which led to recommendations to include pathogens in future INNS strategy and increase investment in biosecurity.