Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI)
The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) is a 4-year partnership project in Northern Scotland, which aims to control invasive non-native species that impact freshwater fisheries. It is led by NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) and funded by them together with the Heritage Lottery and in-kind support from project partners and volunteers. The core objective is that community knowledge and control of ‘invasives’ developed during the project will continue after the project ends, providing a local, sustainable long-term solution.
Invasive non-native species (INNS) have a significant negative impact on freshwater and riparian environments – they can be responsible for the decline of native species and increase bank erosion. The aim of invasive species management is to halt and control the spread of invasive species, undertake habitat restoration and encourage the return of native wildlife.
SISI plant control focuses on five species:
American Skunk Cabbage
Left unmanaged, these plants rapidly engulf riverbanks, outcompeting native species. This growth impacts invertebrate communities within rivers, but the main concern is the winter die-back which leaves bare banks extremely vulnerable to erosion. In some areas, volunteers have started to tackle Himalayan balsam working at a catchment scale so that nothing is left to re-infest the river downstream. Volunteer enthusiasm has been fantastic, and we hope that over the next 2 years we can get the invasion under control to such an extent that any new growth will more easily be managed by local landowners. Through SISI, we have also treated small patches of Japanese knotweed.
From a fisheries perspective, mink can have a significant impact on juvenile salmonid populations. As “surplus killers” they are also responsible for serious declines in populations of ground nesting birds and water voles. We are indebted to our small team of dedicated volunteers who have monitored, trapped, and dispatched mink since the project began in 2018 and we will be pleased to welcome new volunteers to help widen our monitoring area.
Skye is not included in the SISI mink management programme, however, it is clear that there is an increasing population of these invasive mammals on the island. SLRT is not able to provide traps or dispose of any mink that are caught, but if you contact us we will try to find a qualified individual in your area that might be able to help.
Public Awareness & Good Biosecurity
A vital part of SISI is increasing public awareness of invasive plants and animals. Events delivered to date have included displays at shows, public talks, and school activities. Specific biosecurity awareness talks have been provided for anglers, swimmers, and kayakers. The pupils from local primary schools created excellent posters which were displayed at these biosecurity events.
Originally delivered by WRFT and SWRFT, the Skye and Lochalsh Rivers Trust has taken over the management of the project through to completion in 2022 covering the whole of Wester Ross. Skye is not included in the programme but the community can follow the guidance provided on the SISI site or contact us for advice. Invasive species management work is being led by SISI Project Officer Lorna Brown who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find out more about the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI), the target species, how to get involved and volunteer or keep in touch with progress on the project website and through social media via the links below:
Facebook: Scottish Invasive Species Initiative
Photos for this page have been graciously provided by Lorna Brown and SISI.