Save our rivers – give invasive non-native species the brush off!

Save our rivers – give invasive non-native species the brush off!

The Rivers Exe, near Winsford (Spawning Valley). Showing river correctly fenced to stop cattle from polluting the river, or eroding the river banks. Healthy example of river habitat. Exmoor National Park, Somerset, UK. May 2012. - Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

As the second biggest threat to biodiversity and extinction rates globally, invasive non-native species are a challenging problem. But together we can all make simple changes that can help stop the spread writes Gemma Rose, Our River Wellbeing Project Officer.

I have been part of the Living Landscapes team now for almost two years and I still haven’t got my head around just how vast the Dee Catchment (the River Dee and all its tributaries) is, or just how lucky I am that I get to call it my office. However, for all its glorious beauty, it has a dirty little secret!

Blighted by Invasive Non-Native Species such as Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed, American signal crayfish, and Chinese mitten crab (I could go on); it can sometimes feel like an upstream battle.

River bank completely covered in Himalayan balsam

River bank completely covered in Himalayan balsam © GBINNS

Invasive non-native species are a big concern because they can:

Japanese knotweed damage to wall

Japanese knotweed can cause damage to infrastructure such as walls and road surfaces © GBINNS

  • Outcompete our native species for space, light, food, and water
  • Impact our natural environment
  • Reduce biodiversity
  • Reduce water quality
  • Reduce access to water bodies which can impact on recreational activities such as fishing and canoeing
  • Cause land erosion
  • Cause flooding
  • Damage infrastructure 
  • Effect our health and wellbeing
Volunteer removing balsam

Volunteer helping to remove Himalayan balsam from the river bank © Gemma Rose

But all is not lost! Along with our fabulous volunteers, the Our River Wellbeing Project is taking on the battle against invasive non-native species.

Although the road is long, we are winning!! Last year we pulled, strimmed, and whacked a whopping 30km of Himalayan balsam from our riverbanks.

So where do you come in?

Well, the most important thing you can do just so happens to be the easiest! We can all help stop the spread of invasive non-native species by practicing Check - Clean - Dry every time we are out in the countryside.

How do you do it?

Check Clean Dry

Check Clean Dry © GBINNS



Check your clothes and equipment after leaving water or on wet ground for mud, aquatic animals, and bits of plants. Remove anything you find and leave it on site.




Clean everything thoroughly as soon as you can, paying attention to areas that are damp or hard to access. Use hot water if possible.




Dry everything for as long as you can before using again. Some invasive species can live up to 2 weeks in damp conditions!

Scrub those all-important hard to reach places, such as the treads on the bottom of your boots

Scrub those all-important hard to reach places, such as the treads on the bottom of your boots © Original Outdoor Media

This practice doesn’t require any fancy equipment, and at its most basic can be done with just clean water, a boot brush, and your vigilance. It’s that simple!


Want to learn more?

Free invasive non-native species pocket ID guides are available to download in both Welsh and English. Follow the links below:

Welsh     English