Expert: Arrival of new species in Estonia is inevitable

Tiit Maran.
Tiit Maran. Source: *Osoon"

Due to changing environmental and climatic conditions, the arrival of new species in Estonia is inevitable and should not be seen as a dangerous development. People should, nevertheless, restrain from any actions that might contribute to it, says Tiit Maran, director of the Tallinn Zoo.

As the pace of climate change picks up, more new species are arriving in Estonia than expected, which is particularly evident in the case of insects, Director of Tallinn Zoo Tiit Maran said on the "Vikerhommik" radio morning show on Tuesday.

"People presume that our natural environment is stable since that is often the case during a person's lifetime. On a bigger time scale, however, the living environment is continually changing," Maran explained.

"Inevitably, humans, as one of the most highly intelligent and influential species on the planet, have brought about the Anthropocene, which has significantly changed living conditions on Earth. The most prominent instance is global warming," Maran said. Animals and plants alike are attempting to fill newly created niches, which means that for many species the change of habitat is necessary. If species do not act quickly enough, they could face extinction.

The effect is entirely up to Man to judge, but should not necessarily be seen as a bad development, Maran said. "Take the most iconic such species – the jackal; it was shocking to discover it in Estonia in 2013, that it had penetrated so far north. By now it has already reached the border of the Norwegian tundra. The animal has good legs and just traverses the territory."

The initial pioneering colonies may fail to survive, but a population base could soon form and begin to expand.

"Of course, people will have a problem, as our distinctive economic patterns, ranging from agriculture to cattle husbandry, are based on a static idea of nature, which could lead to inherent tensions. Now it's a question of how we share these tensions, because, on the one hand, we want nature to obey us, and yet it doesn't," Maran said.

The sighting of the great egret in Käina Bay near Hiiumaa was almost a comparable surprise, Maran continued.

"I was taken aback when I first saw large egret in Hiiumaa's Käina bay. As a child I used to think it was a southern bird that lived somewhere far away, somewhere beautiful and warm, and yet I have seen it breeding on the shores of Käina Bay. It is not just a single occurrence but an entire population lives there, which is completely unbelievable," Maran said.

Discovering the colorful wasp spider, which has established itself in Estonia despite its usual habitat being the Mediterranean, is also fascinating, the zoologist added.

Maran also said that the emergence of more invasive new species under present-day economic models is inevitable.

"The arrival of foreign species is linked to globalization and cross-border trade," said Maran. This is how the Spanish slug, for example, arrived in Estonia.

"It's even worse on boats, where animals can move around in the bilge water or alongside the hull. This is a difficult to solve problem," added the zoologist.

Although individuals cannot accomplish much on their own, we could begin by discouraging everyone from getting exotic pets.

"If it becomes bothersome at some point and you want to release the animal into the wild somewhere, it could grow larger there, /.../ although individual animals won't breed on their own." In any case, you should be careful when deciding to adopt an exotic species, Maran said.

If a foreign species is discovered, it should be dealt with as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the zoologist says, there are no good ways to do it, and once an alien species has become established, it is difficult to eradicate it.

"Eventually, it becomes exceedingly difficult to restrict the habitat. For instance, it is extremely difficult to eradicate the American mink from Europe as a whole, and while on a regional scale it would be possible, we have better uses for conservation funds," Maran said.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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