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Section 2
Regional management of invasive alien species

Information digest of section 2

Section 2 looks at management of invasive alien species at a regional level. Three papers discuss how regional guidelines, regulations and strategies are applied and are evolving to respond to the risks of invasive alien species in the European region. Europe is a major trading bloc with many contiguous states and shared borders and highly developed free trade arrangements. Huge volumes of species are translocated, intentionally and unintentionally, between and within states. Potential invasive alien species may easily reach neighbouring states or ecologically different parts of the same state.

Box 1: Regional organizations and standards in the IPPC framework

The 1997 revision of the International Plant Protection Convention describes the role of regional plant protection agencies, including that they “shall participate in various activities to achieve the objectives of this Convention and, where appropriate, shall gather and disseminate information” (Article IX.2). The new revised text also includes the concept of regional standards for phytosanitary measures.

IPPC (1997) Article X.3:

“Regional standards should be consistent with the principles of this Convention; such standards may be deposited with the Commission for consideration as candidates for international standards for phytosanitary measures if more broadly applicable.”

Chapter 4 describes how the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization, as the regional plant protection organization within the framework of the International Plant Protection Convention, has developed a body of regional standards for phytosanitary measures for the guidance of its member countries. Many of these standards are relevant to management of invasive alien species and EPPO has an active work programme investigating the risks posed to the region by invasive alien species. Chapter 5 explains the need for a regional strategy on invasive alien species and describes the development of a Europe-wide strategy under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Resources (Bern Convention). Chapter 6 focuses specifically on the member states of the European Union and how the EU phytosanitary system meshes with the guiding principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity in responding to invasive alien species. Major points are summarized below.

Regional standards for phytosanitary measures

The 1997 new revised text of the IPPC includes mention of regional standards as a component of the standard-setting objectives of the convention (see box 1). Over many years EPPO has developed a large body of regional standards, now exceeding 400, many relating to pest-specific phytosanitary measures. These standards provide support for EPPO members (not only European countries but also countries of North Africa and Near East) in dealing with quarantine pests and, more recently, with invasive alien species that are quarantine pests. Members are recommended to manage these pests through national phytosanitary regulations. The work of the regional plant protection organization and the regional standards helps promote a harmonized regional approach. This is very important in the European situation where there are numerous internal borders in a large continent.

Many of the regional standards refer to one particular general standard providing two lists of pests recommended for regulation as quarantine pests (see box 2). In 2002, EPPO resolved that invasive alien species that have an effect on plants are quarantine pests under the IPPC. Quarantine pests may be:

National plant protection organizations are encouraged to consider their responsibilities for the management of such species. Where the pest is an invasive plant primarily affecting the environment, the NPPOs would be expected to consult with national environmental authorities and should also respect the CBD guiding principles. EPPO also recommends its members, in addition to targeting specific pests, take general background measures against alien pests; such general measures may be relevant for invasive alien plants.

Box 2: Invasive plants as quarantine pests in a region

The European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization distinguishes two categories of quarantine pest, listing:

  • A1 pests that are recognized not to be present in any part of the EPPO region and that present a risk to most or all parts of the region

  • A2 pests that are already introduced but are not widely distributed and are under official control; they present a risk of further spread.

These categories have implications for risk identification and management of invasive alien species. Pest risk analysis for quarantine pests may be initiated by identification of a pathway for the entry or spread of a pest. For invasive plants, the questions of origin and pathway are not the same as for other quarantine pests:

  • For the A1 case, there may be multiple entry pathways, many more than for a pest associated with a particular host. The plants concerned may not be invasive in their country of origin, so it is difficult to initiate a pest risk analysis. Plants that are well known to be invasive in other continents but not present in Europe can readily be targeted, but other cases may be difficult to categorize.

  • For the A2 case the priority issue is not usually entry pathways but how the plant will spread within the PRA area. Spread will most often be by natural means. The plant is probably known to be invasive. A2 pest plants are thus relatively easy to categorize, but it is difficult to decide appropriate measures.

The existing regional standards include many that are relevant to invasive alien species. Invasive species could become a component of the lists of quarantine pests and could be covered by standards on specific measures or procedures, pest risk analysis or diagnostic protocols. The development of regional standards on commodity specific measures could cover pest plants. In particular, regional standards on national regulatory control systems may be developed to provide for the management of invasive alien species.

In a further role of support for the phytosanitary organizations of member countries, EPPO publishes an up-to-date “alert list” on its Web site, drawing attention to any pest incident that could be of phytosanitary significance. Several invasive plants are now included in this list. EPPO has also established an expert panel on invasive alien species, which is developing a list of invasive plants in the region and selecting a high-priority group for pest risk analysis.

The European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species

Europe needs a strategy on invasive alien species because:

As well as damaging biodiversity, invasive alien species have imposed huge losses on the European economy, affecting, for example, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and land stability. The European Community has identified proliferation of invasive alien species as an emerging issue.

Many European states face similar constraints in prevention and management efforts.

Depending on the country, these may include:

In 2000, the Bern Convention’s expert group on invasive alien species began developing a strategy to address the above constraints. In December 2003, the Bern Convention Standing Committee adopted a recommendation urging contracting parties to develop and implement national strategies on invasive alien species taking into account the European strategy.

The European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species contains an introductory section and eight substantive sections, cross-referenced to relevant CBD guiding principles. Each of these eight sections sets out a specific aim, key actions and practical indicators for additional actions. The eight specific aims of the strategy are:

Many aspects of implementing the strategy will be delivered through existing plant, animal and human health agencies with longstanding expertise in specific areas. The strategy encourages the active engagement of stakeholders involved in the movement, use and control of potential invasive alien species (industry and trade, transporters, retailers etc.) as well as competent non-governmental organizations and research institutes. Many of the proposed actions call for joint or complementary initiatives by private and public stakeholders. The strategy recognizes that contracting parties’ existing legal obligations may constrain or influence the measures that can be taken, particularly as regards trade-related aspects.

The EU phytosanitary framework and invasive alien species

The phytosanitary provisions and systems of the member states of the EU have been fully harmonized since 1993. Most of the measures have to be applied in the same way in all member states. In principle, the EU phytosanitary system covers most of the CBD’s guiding principles on invasive alien species.

Measures applied to imports and the internal movement of plants and plant products are based on directive 2000/29/EC of the Council of the European Union. All EU member states are obliged to prohibit the import and internal movement of specified quarantine organisms (listed in annexes of the directive) and of other alien organisms potentially harmful to plants. Traditionally, these organisms are plant pests directly harmful to plants or plant products; thus, the EU plant health provisions usually relate to preventing and controlling unintentional introductions.

All main pathways for alien harmful organisms affecting plants are regulated and controlled by the EU phytosanitary system in order to minimize the probability of introduction of these organisms. These pathways are mainly:

If not already prohibited from import, such items are subjected to inspection at the EU borders on entry. It implements elements of the CBD guiding principles 7 and 11, which call for border controls and measures to minimize unintentional introductions.

The phytosanitary control of intentional import of species is much less developed than the measures against unintentional introduction. The EU provisions are focused only on those alien organisms that are directly harmful to plants and plant products, such as bacteria and insects. A 2002 revision of directive 2000/29/EC allows application of protective measures to organisms that are suspected of being harmful to plants or plant products but are not specified in the annexed lists. In the same revision, the directive adopts the IPPC definition of a plant “pest” as its definition of “harmful organism”. Thus there is the legal basis to regulate on the EU level the intentional introduction of such invasive alien species as weeds and invasive alien plants. The current EU phytosanitary system partially fulfils the requirements of the CBD guiding principles 7 and 10 dealing with border controls and measures to minimize risk associated with intentional introductions of alien species that are or could become invasive.

If quarantine organisms listed in the annexes of directive 2000/29/EC are identified in an area in the EU where they have not been found before, the member state concerned has to take effective action against the outbreak with the aim to stop its spread and, if possible, to eradicate or suppress the population of the organism in the infested area. If outbreaks are identified for new harmful organisms, the member state concerned is obliged to take preliminary measures that at least limit the spread of the organism to other member states. The CBD guiding principles 12-15 provide for the mitigation of impacts of invasive alien species, their eradication or, if this is not possible, their control. The EU provisions on this are in principle a powerful tool ensuring that all member states take the required action individually or, if necessary, community wide.

Pest risk analysis is an essential component in the protection of habitats, ecosystems, plants and other organisms and features in seven of the CBD guiding principles. Pest risk analysis in the EU plant health system is based on IPPC provisions and standards. In principle, it covers all requirements of the guiding principles, including the consideration of the precautionary approach, the application of a cost-benefit analysis and research.

The EU phytosanitary system partly covers the role of states (guiding principle 4). The CBD recommendation that states should identify, as far as possible, species that could become invasive and make such information available to other states may be interpreted to require pest risk analysis done by the exporting state for the importing state. This is not considered to be a realistic requirement. Pest risk analyses in the EU plant health system are done on the importing side. However, once informed of species that may be invasive to other countries, member states have to take this into account before exports of potentially problematic products can take place and the required plant health certificates are issued.

The only guiding principle covered poorly in most member states is that on education and public awareness (guiding principle 6). Risk communication not only to the stakeholders but also to the public is crucial for a long-term acceptance of effective measures against invasive alien species that are plant pests. The EU population is not sufficiently aware of the threat posed by invasive alien species to agriculture, forestry and the uncultivated environment.

Regional cooperation and responsibility

Cooperation is the subject of CBD guiding principle 9, which points out that a state’s response to minimizing the spread and impact of invasive alien species may require a bilateral or multilateral approach with other countries. Cooperation between contracting parties and the EU member states is a main prerequisite for the EU phytosanitary system in general and one of the main goals of EPPO. Cooperation between different stakeholders in the management of invasive alien species in Europe is already taking place, for example between EPPO (plant health) and the Bern Convention (nature conservation).

The European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species includes in its fourth aim:

Information and research aspects of IAS management in Europe

For regional initiatives in risk identification and management of invasive alien species to be successful, relevant information must be accurate, timely and accessible to all concerned.

Monitoring and early warning are crucial elements of risk identification. Examples in the European region include:

In a more general information role, the European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species includes in its second aim:

Points to note

Section 2’s coverage of regional management of invasive alien species provides many details that are specific to Europe. However, some aspects are noteworthy on a more general basis for application in any region:

This digest consists of information extracted from section 2, together with some background material and explanatory comment. For the full detail, argument, examples and supporting references, please refer to the following chapters 4-6.

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