A LOCAL environmental charity is asking Borderers to keep their eyes peeled for any invasive plant species in the region.

This week (May 16-11) marks Invasive Species Week, and Tweed Forum is urging Borders residents and people in North Northumberland to help identify invasive species.

More than 2,000 non-native plants and animals have been introduced to Britain. Most are harmless, however, estimates suggest that 10 to 15 per cent spread and become invasive species – causing harm to wildlife and impact the public.

Tweed Forum project officer Emily Iles said: “Invasive plant species can cause significant harm and while our recent work has vastly reduced their appearance in the Tweed catchment, they are notoriously difficult to eradicate and we know that pockets of growth still exist."

According to the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, invasive species are believed to cost the British economy £1.7 billion each year.

Peeblesshire News: A Tweed Forum worker spraying Giant Hogweed. Photo: Tweed ForumA Tweed Forum worker spraying Giant Hogweed. Photo: Tweed Forum

One of the more prevalent invasive plants in the Tweed catchment area is Giant Hogweed.

The plant can grow up to 16 feet tall and has toxic sap which can cause severe blistering and burns on the skin.

Other species, such as Japanese Knotweed, American Skunk Cabbage and Himalayan Balsam cause riverbank erosion, increasing flood-risk. They also threaten native biodiversity by destroying spawning and nursery habitats for salmonid fish species – for example, salmon, trout and graylings.

Invasive plant species first appeared in the Tweed area in the early 19th century through exotic botanical collections and the textile industry via seeds trapped in unprocessed sheep fleeces which were transferred to the local environment during the washing process. The spread of seeds via the river system was the main way these plants were transported around the region.

Ms Iles said: "Our fantastic team of volunteers helps us to walk hundreds of miles of watercourse every year in search of invasive plants, but we also rely on sightings from a range of people including farmers, anglers, residents and visitors to help us find any new growth.

"We’d like to encourage the community to look at our social media channels or visit the Tweed Forum website to see what the main species of concern look like and to report any they may see when they are out enjoying the countryside this summer.”

This year marks two decades of tackling invasive species for Tweed Forum.

In that time, the work done by Tweed Forum has reduced the density and abundance of Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed, it is now rare to see either species along the main stem of the Tweed.

American Skunk Cabbage has been contained to a number of sites.

The environmental charity is also trialling an experimental way of combatting Himalayan Balsam using rust fungus.

Tweed Forum's work on invasive species is part of the LIFE WADER project.

For more information, visit: tweedforum.org/our-work/projects/tweed-invasives-project/