Environmental Impact Classification of Alien Taxa

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Invasive Alien Species are recognised as a major direct and indirect driver of biodiversity loss across the world, their economic impact is estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars each year, and they have significant negative effects upon food security, and human health and well-being.

This has led to invasive alien species being prioritised in international policy fora, including Aichi Target 9 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Target 15.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for the prioritisation of invasive alien species for prevention, eradication or control.

Aichi Target 9 icon  Aichi Target 9: 

By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment

SDG Target 15.8 icon  SDG Target 15.8:

By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species

However, as there is no global, standardised, systematic evaluation, prioritisation and monitoring process in place for invasive alien species, IUCN were requested in 2014 by parties to the CBD (COP XII Decision 17) to develop a system for classifying invasive alien species based on the nature and magnitude of their impacts. IUCN, through its Species Survival Commission Invasive Species Specialist Group has now developed such a system, published in 2015, called ‘Environmental Impact Classification of Alien Taxa (EICAT)’. 

IUCN consultation

At the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, IUCN members passed Resolution WCC-2016-Res-018 ‘Toward an IUCN standard classification of the impact of invasive alien species’, which “requests the SSC and Director General to conduct a consultation process involving all relevant stakeholders within the Union to develop EICAT, integrating the outcomes into the IUCN Global Invasive Species Database and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, thus providing an essential background for the achievement of Aichi Target 9 (and subsequent related targets) and SDG Target 15.8”.

If you are not an IUCN member and would like to know more about how you could can either use EICAT or use the results of EICAT, please contact Kevin Smith (IUCN Invasive Species Programme Officer) 

If you are an IUCN member, you will have received an invitation to take part in the IUCN EICAT consultation – you can download the proposed EICAT proposed standard, guidelines and data recording template in the links at the top of this page.

EICAT Summary

EICAT is a simple, objective and transparent assessment process that classifies alien species into one of five categories, according to the magnitude of the detrimental impacts to the environment. It has 5 objectives:

  1. identify those taxa that have different levels of environmental impact;
  2. facilitate comparisons of the level of impact by alien taxa among regions and taxonomic groups;
  3. facilitate predictions of potential future impacts of taxa in the target region and elsewhere;
  4. aid in prioritisation of management actions; and
  5. aid in evaluation of management methods.

EICAT CategoriesEICAT Categories

It must be stressed that EICAT:

  1. is NOT a risk assessment, and its output alone should not be used to assign the priority that should be attached to the control or management of any given alien species. Risk assessment and priority setting require contextual information that is not incorporated into the EICAT scheme.
  2. is NOT a statutory list of harmful invasive species.
  3. should NOT to be used on its own to identify which alien species should be regulated.

It is envisaged that the EICAT scheme will be used by scientists, land managers and conservation practitioners as a tool to gain a better understanding of the magnitude of impacts caused by different alien taxa, to alert relevant stakeholders to the possible consequences of the arrival of certain alien species, and to inform the prioritisation, implementation and evaluation of management policies and actions.

The EICAT system must be applied in a consistent and comparable manner across different assessments. Therefore, IUCN have developed a standardised protocol to be applied to this assessment, that is analogous to, and draws heavily upon, the framework adopted for classifications for the globally recognised IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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