A FLESH-EATING worm from South America is just one of the invasive species that is infiltrating Oxfordshire’s ecosystem.

Mouth watering crayfish are also infesting county waters and posing a serious threat to native plant and animal populations.

Environmental groups are now urging the Government to invest £6 million a year to prevent the alien species taking over.

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Invasive species are non-native animals and plants that have been introduced to the UK which have harmful socio-economic and environmental impacts.

Oxfordshire has several invasive species including signal crayfish, the obama flatworm and floating pennywort.

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The obama flatworm, found in the county in 2016, 'hunts snails and earthworms' and threatens 'farmers and gardeners through potential changes to the soil ecosystem'.

The flatworm, found in the county in 2016, hunts snails and earthworms and threatens farmers and gardeners by changing the soil ecosystem.

Environmentalist say the flatworm is a ‘good example’ of why the investment is needed.

Signal crayfish also cause environmental problems and ‘can have significant economic impact’ as they spread a fatal plague to native, white-clawed crayfish.

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Some fishermen around Oxford, such as Dale Oram and Roger Sellars, pictured above, have helped tackle the problem themselves by catching the invasive crayfish and selling them for profit.

Mr Oram said: “Not only is catching lots of crayfish good for business but it’s good for the rivers because the crayfish do a lot of damage.”

The call for more funding to prevent invasive species comes ahead of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

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The 'flesh-eating' Obama Flatworm

New research estimates that a £6m investment would save over £2.7 billion in the next 20 years.

Environmental campaign group Wildlife and Countryside Link says that increasing the invasive species defence budget from its current funding of £1 million a year to £6 million a year would lead to a number of other benefits.

The investment would provide jobs and training for ‘tens of thousands of people’ which would in turn boost ‘our green recovery from Covid-19’.

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Floating Pennywort

If this were combined with a Government-funded National Nature Service, an estimate of 4,000 coordinators, 75,000 volunteers and 2,000 contractors would ‘vastly’ expand local action groups currently tackling the invasive species problem.

At present, the group says there are 18 invasive species established in the UK which are causing environmental and economic damage.

Without the Government investment being asked for, the campaigners warn that number could rise to 42 by the year 2040.

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: “Invasive species are costly for the economy as well as exacting a toll on wildlife." He said the investment could support jobs, cut costs and protect UK wildlife.