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5
Developing the European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species


Clare Shine and Piero Genovesi

IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group; Clare Shine, Consultant in Environmental Policy and Law, 37 rue Erlanger, 75016 Paris, France; e-mail: clare.shine@wanadoo.fr

Abstract

The paper explains the rationale for concerted regional action at the pan-European level, including the determination of status and trends for invasive alien species in Europe. It outlines the contribution of existing European organizations, notably the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization, to prevention and management of invasive alien species, followed by a summary of the work programme on invasive alien species of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Resources 1979 (Bern Convention). The paper describes the background, process and target audience for the European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species adopted under the Bern Convention in December 2003 and summarizes its structure and key aims.

Why does Europe need a strategy on invasive alien species?

Introductions in Europe and the Mediterranean basin started in ancient times. In some cases, the impacts on native ecosystems occurred so long ago that we hardly perceive the effects on the region’s biodiversity. But although the history of species introductions in Europe is very ancient, the phenomenon has grown rapidly in recent times as a result of increasing globalization (trade, transport, tourism). In addition, climate change affects the abundance and spread of invasive alien species and the vulnerability of ecosystems to invasions.

Why Europe needs a strategy on invasive alien species:

  • Invasive alien species from all taxonomic groups are a real threat to European biodiversity.

  • Europe has many countries, shared borders and growing freedom of trade and movement.

  • European countries actively supported the adoption of guiding principles on invasive alien species under the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2002.

  • Common approaches are needed to make the CBD guiding principles operational and to reach agreement on priorities, especially for transboundary problems.

Several endangered species in Europe are threatened by invasive alien species, for example European mink by the American mink (Sidorovich, Kruuk and Macdonald, 1999) and white-headed duck by the ruddy duck (Hughes et al., 1999). The expansion of the American grey squirrel in north-west Italy is causing the progressive disappearance of the native red squirrel in all overlap areas and is considered a potential threat to forest ecosystems at a continental scale (Bertolino and Genovesi, 2003). European forests have been profoundly altered by Dutch elm disease, caused by fungi introduced from Asia, which devastated elm tree populations in much of central Europe and Great Britain (Schrader and Unger, 2001).

European island biotas, hosting a major portion of the region’s biodiversity, are particularly vulnerable to invasions because increased travel and trade break down the natural barriers that protected and forged these biotas over millions of years. The number of invasive alien species on European islands is growing exponentially and has led to an unprecedented extinction crisis of the islands’ endemic species.

As well as damaging biodiversity, invasive alien species have imposed huge losses on the European economy. Introduced pests and diseases affect agriculture and forestry: alien parasites such as Gyrodactylus salaris and Anguillicola crassus have led to dramatic decreases in fisheries sector incomes in several Nordic States (Weidema, 2000). The muskrat and coypu, introduced in the last century by the European fur industry, damage river banks through digging and have increased the risk and severity of floods in many central and southern European states. The introduction of the American comb jelly (Mnemiopsis leidyi) into the Black and Azov Seas caused the near extinction of the anchovy and sprat fisheries (Ivanov et al., 2000).

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, in the course of routine sectoral activities between and within states. Potential invasive alien species may easily reach neighbouring states or ecologically different parts of the same state.

The impacts of many past invasions could have been reduced if European states had uniformly applied appropriate best practices and taken rapid action to eradicate introduced species following detection. Most biological invasions now threatening Europe might have been prevented by greater awareness of IAS issues and a stronger commitment to address them. Current inaction in some states and sectors may threaten the region’s biodiversity, public health and economic interests.

The need for regional coordination on different aspects of invasive alien species has long been recognized by the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization and the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Resources 1979 (Bern Convention). The European Community (EC) has identified proliferation of invasive alien species as an emerging issue, noting that introductions of invasive alien species are one of the main recorded causes of biodiversity loss and cause serious damage to economy and health (Council of the European Union, 2002). Each of these bodies has developed legal and technical references for different aspects of invasive alien species with particular emphasis on the need for transboundary cooperation.

In 2002, European countries and the EC supported the adoption by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD of decision VI/23 (CBD, 2002; refer also footnote on page 7) and the annexed Guiding principles for the prevention, introduction and mitigation of impacts of alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species. The decision urges contracting parties and relevant organizations inter alia to prioritize the development of IAS strategies and action plans at both national and regional level.

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Resources (Bern Convention) is well placed to foster the European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species because it:

  • has had a longstanding focus on invasive alien species as they affect biodiversity, although progress is piecemeal

  • provides a pan-European framework for more effective prevention and management

  • traditionally engages a wide range of stakeholders (governments, non-governmental organizations [NGOs], relevant sectors etc.)

  • plays a leading role in regional implementation of the CBD throughout Europe, and hence is an ideal forum for helping to make the CBD guiding principles operational in Europe.

Why develop the strategy under the Bern Convention?

The Bern Convention, to which 39 European states and the EC are party, requires parties “to strictly control the introduction of nonnative species” (Article 11.2.b). Since 1984, a range of actions have been initiated for more effective implementation of this article. These include:

· the adoption of recommendations on general IAS issues and specific problems, including Recommendation no. R (84) 14 (1984) of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe concerning the introduction of non-native species, and recommendations of the Bern Convention Standing Committee no. 57 (1997) on the introduction of organisms belonging to non-native species into the environment and no. 77 (1999) on the eradication of non-native terrestrial vertebrates (available at www.nature.coe.int)

· production of technical reports (see de Klemm, 1996; Lambinon, 1997; Elvira, 2001)

· establishment of a Group of Experts on Invasive Alien Species

· organization of focused workshops, for example, a workshop on invasive alien species on European islands and evolutionary isolated ecosystems (Council of Europe, 2002).

The Bern Convention’s work programme on invasive alien species has shown that many European states face similar constraints in their prevention and management efforts. Depending on the country, these may include:

Process for development of the strategy

In 2000, the Bern Convention’s expert group on invasive alien species began developing elements for a European strategy to address the above constraints, in collaboration with the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group (European Section). The work has been carried out in consultation with key institutions such as EPPO and the EC, and has been welcomed by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (decision VI/23, paragraph 21).

The first version of the draft European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species was discussed at an expert group workshop in Horta, Azores (Council of Europe, 2002) and then by the Bern Convention Standing Committee in December 2002. Following submission of detailed comments by parties to the Bern Convention and observers, including EPPO, the draft strategy was revised and reconsidered by the expert group in June 2003. In December 2003, the third draft was submitted to the Bern Convention Standing Committee, which adopted a recommendation (see box) urging contracting parties to develop and implement national strategies on invasive alien species taking into account the European strategy (Council of Europe, 2003).

Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Resources:

Recommendation No. 99 (2003) on the European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species

(adopted by the Standing Committee on 4 December 2003)

“ ... Referring to the measures proposed in the ‘European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species’, [document T-PVS(2003) 7];

Recommends that Contracting Parties:

1. draw up and implement national strategies on invasive alien species taking into account the European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species mentioned above;

2. co-operate, as appropriate, with other Contracting Parties and Observer States in the prevention of introduction of invasive alien species, the mitigation of their impacts on native flora and fauna and natural habitats, and their eradication or containment where feasible and practical, inter alia by exchanging information, collaborating in European projects and paying particular attention to invasive alien species in trade and transboundary areas; ...”

Who is the strategy for?

The strategy is primarily targeted at governments of contracting parties to the Bern Convention and of other European states. It is addressed to nature conservation agencies and other sectoral agencies with responsibility for IAS-related activities. It emphasizes that many aspects of implementation will be delivered through existing plant, animal and human health agencies with longstanding expertise in specific areas.

The strategy is also addressed to the Bern Convention Secretariat and strongly supports closer coordination and cooperation with relevant European and international organizations. It 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 (NGOs) 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.

Summary of content

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 specific aims are outlined below. Details of the proposed actions can be found in the full text (available at www.nature.coe.int).

Objectives

The strategy promotes the development and implementation of coordinated measures and cooperative efforts throughout Europe to prevent or minimize adverse impacts of invasive alien species on Europe’s biodiversity as well as its economy and human health and wellbeing. It provides guidance to help parties to the Bern Convention in their efforts to:

Scope

The strategy covers terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments under the sovereignty or jurisdiction of parties to the Bern Convention and provides guidance for activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction (e.g. shipping). It applies to alien species, as defined under the CBD, in all taxonomic groups. It does not apply to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). (Although some GMOs have the potential to become invasive alien species, they are separately regulated under EC legislation and by several other European states. There may be scope for countries to coordinate activities relevant to both invasive alien species and GMOs, such as risk analysis, contained use, field trials, control of release, monitoring.)

Aim 1. Building awareness and support

Europe’s public, decision-makers, scientists and other stakeholders have high awareness of risks posed by invasive alien species and the benefits of prevention and mitigation for native biodiversity, the economy and human health and wellbeing. Stakeholders are actively engaged in developing best practices to prevent IAS impacts.

Aim 2. Collecting, managing and sharing information

Species inventories

A clear understanding of alien species established on national territory is developed to help identify species that are invasive, set priorities for research, prevention, monitoring and mitigation and rapidly detect new arrivals not already present in the country or part of the country.

Research and monitoring

Through systematic monitoring, the ecology, distribution, patterns of spread and response to management of invasive alien species are better understood. Capacity to predict the consequences of alien species introductions is strengthened. Critical information is available to support IAS prevention, mitigation and restoration and provide a stronger scientific basis for decision-making and allocation of resources.

Regional exchange of information

Effective systems are in place to share information relating to invasive alien species with neighbouring countries, trading partners and regions with similar ecosystems to facilitate identification, early warning and coordination of prevention, mitigation and restoration measures. Information systems can locate, document and provide electronic access to sources of information, provide quality control and ensure controlled vocabularies. Common data protocols or standards are used where possible.

Aim 3. Strengthening policy, legal and institutional frameworks

Leadership and coordination

Clear leadership or appropriate coordination is in place for IAS prevention and mitigation, involving relevant sectors and different levels of government as appropriate. Efficient use is made of existing structures, procedures and expertise relevant to trade, movement, holding and management of potential invasive alien species (e.g. national plant protection organizations, customs and quarantine services, CITES authorities, veterinary authorities).

Policy and legal review and development

IAS prevention and mitigation are fully incorporated in national/subnational legislation and in biodiversity and other relevant policies, strategies and action plans, consistent with international law.

Strategies and action plans

Parties have specific strategies and action plans in place to address all aspects of IAS prevention and mitigation.

Key approaches and tools

National and regional frameworks support the application of key approaches and tools for IAS prevention and mitigation (precautionary approach, environmental impact assessment, ecosystem approach, risk analysis) and the development of improved criteria, techniques and capacity for their effective use.

Ancient introductions

Species introduced in ancient historic times are conserved only if recovery of the original ecosystems is no longer feasible and their conservation does not conflict with the primary aim of conserving the native biological diversity.

Compliance and enforcement

A mix of voluntary and regulatory measures is developed to underpin and enforce prevention policies, based on consultation with relevant sectors, industry and other stakeholders. Innovative measures for greater accountability are in place for individuals and entities responsible for the introduction and/or spread of invasive alien species.

Aim 4. Regional cooperation and responsibility

Cooperation between Bern Convention parties

States recognize the risk that activities within their jurisdiction or control may pose to other states as a potential source of invasive alien species and take appropriate individual and cooperative actions to minimize that risk.

Role of the Bern Convention

The Bern Convention continues its engagement with IAS issues by facilitating national implementation of the strategy and strengthening cooperation with relevant regional and global institutions (including EPPO).

Subregional cooperation

Use of a biogeographic scale is promoted when defining priorities and implementing measures for IAS prevention, monitoring and mitigation. States sharing common problems in a subregion, including states not party to the Bern Convention, are encouraged to develop and participate in relevant programmes.

Aim 5. Prevention

Prevention at source and on arrival: border control and quarantine measures

Parties cooperate to strengthen and prioritize border control and quarantine measures for alien species that are or could become invasive, making best use of existing resources and information systems.

Intentional introductions

Proposed introductions are assessed through a comprehensive screening system based on risk analysis. States make all efforts to permit only those species that are unlikely to threaten biodiversity.

Unintentional introductions

Appropriate measures and operational resources are in place to minimize unintentional introductions resulting from sectoral activities (indicative actions are suggested for a range of relevant European stakeholders).

In-country prevention

Measures are in place to minimize the introduction, establishment and spread of invasive alien species or potential invasive alien species within a country.

Special measures for isolated ecosystems

States with biogeographically or evolutionarily isolated ecosystems (islands, lakes, enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, river basins, mountain ranges, gorges etc.) and centres of endemism and high biodiversity apply strict measures to prevent or minimize adverse impacts of biological invasions.

Prediction and prevention of spontaneous spread

Patterns of spread of established invasive alien species are better predicted to allow timely responses by neighbouring states.

Aim 6. Early detection and rapid response

Parties have comprehensive and cost-effective surveillance procedures in place (key actions include setting up an early warning system and organizing regular surveillance of high-risk areas). The time between documenting an introduction and implementing a response is reduced through the clear allocation of roles and powers and the development of contingency plans for eradicating newly detected potential invasive alien species.

Aim 7. Mitigation of impacts

Parties have a clear legal basis for mitigation measures and procedures to consult and involve affected communities and stakeholders. Realistic priorities for eradication, containment and control are agreed and implemented and their results are disseminated.

Aim 8. Restoration of native biodiversity

IAS strategies and eradication and control programmes promote restoration measures for native biodiversity and, wherever possible, the use of native species of local provenance in preference to alien species. The rationale for this part of the strategy is that as part of a holistic approach, strategies and programmes relating to invasive alien species go beyond a mainly defensive focus on prevention/management to promote restoration measures for native biodiversity and, wherever possible, the use of native species of local provenance. Increased resilience of native biodiversity can, in turn, provide greater protection against re-invasion or new incursions.

References

Bertolino, S. & Genovesi, P. 2003. Spread and attempted eradication of the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Italy, and consequences for the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in Eurasia. Biological Conservation, 109(3): 351-358.

CBD. 2002. Sixth Conference of the Parties, The Hague, the Netherlands, 7-19 April 2002: Decision VI/23: Alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species to which is annexed Guiding principles for the prevention, introduction and mitigation of impacts of alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species (available at www.biodiv.org).

Council of Europe. 2002. Twenty-second meeting of the Bern Convention Standing Committee, Strasbourg, France, 2-5 December 2002: Proceedings of the workshop on invasive alien species on European islands and evolutionary isolated ecosystems, Horta, Azores, Portugal, 10-12 October 2002: document T-PVS/Inf (2002) 33, dated 21 October 2002. Strasbourg, France, Council of Europe (available at www.coe.int).

Council of Europe. 2003. Twenty-third meeting of the Bern Convention Standing Committee, Strasbourg, France, 1-5 December 2003: Recommendation No. 99 (2003) on the European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species, referring to document T-PVS (2003) 7, dated 5 September 2003: European strategy on invasive alien species (3rd draft). Strasbourg, France, Council of Europe (available at www.coe.int).

Council of the European Union. 2002. 2413rd Council meeting - Environment, Brussels, 4 March 2002: 6592/02 (Presse 47): p. 24 (available at ue.eu.int).

Elvira, B. 2001. Identification of non-native freshwater fishes established in Europe and assessment of their potential threat to the biological diversity. Council of Europe: Twenty-first meeting of the Bern Convention Standing Committee, Strasbourg, France, 26-30 November 2001: document T-PVS (2001) 6, dated 11 December 2000 (available at www.coe.int).

Hughes, B., Delany, S., Criado, J., Green, A., Gallo-Orsi, U., Grussu, M., Perennou, C. & Torres Esquivas, J.A. 1999. The status of the North American ruddy duck Oxyura jamaicensis in the western Palearctic: towards an action plan for eradication. Council of Europe publication T-PVS/Birds (99). Strasbourg, France, Council of Europe Publishing.

Ivanov, V.P., Kamakin, A.M., Ushivtzev, V.B., Shiganova, T., Zhukova, O., Aladin N., Wilson, S.I, Harbison, G.R. & Dumont, H.J. 2000. Invasion of the Caspian Sea by the comb jellyfish Mnemiopsis leidyi (Ctenophora). Biological Invasions, 2(3): 255-258.

de Klemm, C. 1996. Introductions of non-native organisms into the natural environment. Nature and Environment No. 73. Strasbourg, France, Council of Europe Publishing.

Lambinon, J. 1997. Introduction of non-native plant species into the natural environment. Nature and Environment No. 87. Strasbourg, France, Council of Europe Publishing.

Schrader, G. & Unger, J.-G. 2001. Plant pests as alien invasive species: success and failure of European phytosanitary measures - a German view. In CBD Technical paper no. 1. Assessment and management of alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats and species, pp. 81-83. Montreal, Canada, SCBD. 123 pp.

Sidorovich, V., Kruuk, H. & Macdonald, D.W. 1999. Body size, and interactions between European and American mink (Mustela lutreola and M. vison) in Eastern Europe. Journal of Zoology, 248: 521-527.

Weidema, I., ed. 2000. Introduced species in the Nordic countries. Nord 2000:13. Copenhagen, Denmark, Nordic Council of Ministers. 242 pp.


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