Experts warn Kiwi invader feasting on farming ecosystem could potentially cause damage costing millions of euro

File photo
File photo
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

An invasive species of worm has arrived in Ireland and is feasting on a vitally important part of our ecosystem.

Earthworms are a favourite snack of the New Zealand flatworm which is already rampant in Northern Ireland and is slowly making its way south.

Experts have warned the Kiwi invader could potentially cause damage costing millions of euro to nutrient-rich soils.

During Invasive Species Week 2018, experts at Biodiversity Ireland asked members of the public to report any possible sightings of this invasive species.

"The New Zealand flatworm can be easily identified as it cannot burrow into soil like the earthworms and lives above ground," said Colette O'Flynn of Biodiversity Ireland.

"It has a slimy appearance with a very flat body, non-segmented and pointed at both ends. Its eggs are small and black and look like broken-up blackberries.

"Several hundred sightings have been reported in Northern Ireland, but we believe they are greatly under-reported south of the border," said Ms O'Flynn.

"They put pressure on our ecosystem and upset the balance of life," she explained.

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"Earthworms eat organic matter like dead leaves, breaking it down and putting rich nutrients into the soil. They also burrow and mix the soil, bringing more air and health into fields."

It is believed the New Zealand flatworm was first introduced to Northern Ireland in 1963 as a result of contamination of plant potting soil imported from New Zealand.

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