A framework for identifying Invasive Alien Species of European Union concern

Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are considered to be one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, particularly through their interactions with other drivers of change. There are around 12,000  IAS within EU territory, of which 1,500 have negative impacts on the environment, economy and society as a whole. They are thought to cost the EU over €12 billion a year.  

Alien Invasive Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) which has spread around the entire tropics and is now moving north into southern Europe as Climate Change makes conditions suitable for it.

IAS can negatively impact upon native biodiversity in a number of ways by out-competing for niche resources, by directly feeding upon them and through hybridization with the native species. Therefore it is imperative that we prevent the loss of biodiversity by dealing with the IAS in Europe and throughout the World.

There are a number of international agreements that recognise the negative effects of IAS and reflect the growing concerns of many people. For example, European countries now have obligations in relation to alien species and must “strictly control the introduction of non-indigenous species” (Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife & Natural Habitats) and “eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species” (UN Convention on Biological Diversity).

At the EU level, the European Commission published in 2013 a proposal for a Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species. The proposal is for three types of interventions; prevention, early warning and rapid response, and management. A list of invasive alien species of Union concern will be drawn up with Member States using risk assessments and scientific evidence.

To support the EC Regulation, the European Commission commissioned the project Invasive Alien Species – A framework for the identification of invasive alien species of EU concern. This project is led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and is implemented in collaboration with other organisations, including the IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) and the IUCN European Union Representative Office in Brussels.

The purpose of the proposed study is to provide an up-to-date critical review of available IAS risk analysis methodologies and use this, coupled with expert opinion, to inform the development of minimum standards necessary to ensure effective risk assessment methods for IAS. Additionally the gaps in knowledge and scope of existing risk analysis methods will be considered. Thus, existing risk analysis methods are not only assessed and critically reviewed but recommendations are provided for developing risk analysis methods within a framework of minimum standards.

The proposed methods will be of value for the development of an initial list of IAS of EU concern including species that are already established within the EU. The work will also be extended to include a scoping study that will consider future IAS that are not yet established but that present a significant threat to biodiversity, the economy and society as a whole.

The objectives are as follows:

  • A literature review of all relevant IAS risk assessment methodologies;
  • Creation of minimum standards for all risk assessment methodologies;
  • Critically examine and improve the minimum standards in an expert workshop;
  • Test existing IAS risk assessment methodologies against the minimum standards;
  • Review the list of 80 species of EU concern and amend accordingly.

For more information about the project, please contact Ana Nieto ([email protected]).

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