In the opening pages of Invasive Aliens, an exploration of the impact of non-native species on our flora, fauna, landscape and culture, Dan Eatherley deplores the use of emotive terminology. It isn’t just the preserve of tabloids, he writes; ‘even serious scientists will talk about “demon shrimps” and “killer algae”’. Furthermore, he claims that some of the language used when discussing invasive species has a xenophobic flavour. ‘Some argue that the current fixation with non-indigenous wildlife is bound up with subliminal, and not so subliminal, antipathy to arrivals of the human kind,’ he says. ‘Worries about many non-natives can be whipped up unnecessarily, and sometimes for unsavoury political ends.’
Eatherley fails to expand on this claim, so I have no idea whether or not it is true. My suspicion is that he is simply trying to grab the reader’s attention. Like the tabloids that hype up the threats posed by non-native species, he has a fondness for melodrama, which this fascinating subject doesn’t require. After all, as Eatherley points out, ‘the story of invasive species is the story of our own past, present and future’.
Recent figures suggest that 3,163 non-native species were present in England, Scotland and Wales in 2017, around two-thirds of which were reproducing in the wild. Only a small proportion of these are considered ‘invasive’ in the sense that they are having a negative impact. Most people will be familiar