Ten invasive species have been red listed in Cyprus for their dangerous impact on the environment, according to a presentation this week by BirdLife Cyprus and the forestry department.
And while not in the top ten, cats and dogs are also considered invasive species with a serious influence on wildlife.
The species that were red listed are the acacia plant, the tree of heaven, black locust plant, wood sorrels, purpurea and fountain grasses.
As far as animal species, speakers focused on two freshwater fish (pumpkinseed fish and the mosquitofish), the American water turtle and the signal crayfish.
In Cyprus a total of 46 invasive species have been found, as part of the EU’s Life programme, the officer of the forestry department Constantinos Charalambous said.
Commenting on the red-listed ones, Charalambous said: “Some of them, such as acacia, are considered practically impossible to combat and efforts should be focused on their containment, especially in environmentally sensitive areas.”
Another official Yiannis Christodoulides said that invasive species are the second biggest cause of the loss of endemic species at European and global level, presenting research that shows that 110 of the 395 endangered endemic species in the EU are at risk.
The official added that the effects extend to ecosystem services (such as clean water), human health and the economy, noting that €12 billion is estimated across the EU to deal with the consequences of the presence of invasive species.
He cited Spain as an example, where the presence of the invasive zebra mussel species in the water supply pipes costs €4 million a year to manage.
Invasive species management, he said, is focused on three pillars, which are prevention, quick detection and pointed management, when eradication is impossible.
People’s favourite quadrupeds, cats and dogs, are also considered invasive species, with serious effects on the fauna, said Nikos Kasinis, senior official of the Cyprus game fund.
He said that, records available since the 16th century indicate that cats are estimated to be responsible for the extinction of 63 species worldwide, mainly due to predation, and that billions of birds and small mammals are killed by cats each year in the US.
Kasinis added that while there are no exact figures for the number of cats or dogs on our island, some reports – unconfirmed – estimate there to be 1.5 million cats and 250,000 dogs.
The number of birds that fall prey to cats on the island is also unknown, with the official indicating the danger that exists in sensitive areas, such as the Larnaca salt lake, where there is a cat sanctuary.
He also said that there were recorded cases where packs of dogs attacked and killed wild animals and sheep and spread diseases, adding that studies should be done to record the interaction of wildlife with cats and dogs as well as public awareness campaigns.