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Section 5
National perspectives on invasive alien species

Information digest of section 5

Section 5 outlines how two countries with very different environmental and biodiversity situations are tackling the problem of invasive alien species. Chapter 17 considers the risks posed by alien species to Germany, and how invasiveness might be categorized from the point of view of nature conservation. It discusses options for action in nature conservation in Germany, interaction with the plant protection framework of the International Plant Protection Convention and its categories of pest, and various nature conservation activities in Germany. Chapter 18 reviews one of these latter activities, namely the development of a German national strategy on invasive alien species. It describes the elements of the national strategy and the necessary legal work. Chapter 19’s perspective is the development of a national plan for Canada to address the threat of invasive alien species. It outlines the components of the plan and discusses three strategic challenges to ensuring protection of native and domestic biodiversity.

Alien species in Germany

The spread of organisms into new areas is a natural process. History reveals a massive increase in the rate of human-assisted spread of organisms in the 15th century. Accordingly, organisms introduced to Europe before the European discovery of America in 1492 may be classed as “archaeobiota” and those introduced afterwards as “neobiota”. Introduced plants not only increased the existing native plant diversity but also affected the established ecosystem, sometimes nearly unnoticeably and sometimes leading to its total destruction.

In the German flora, however, both archaeophytes and neophytes are among the 50 most common species. Extinction as a result of alien species is not known and their effects on ecosystems are not as extensive as in other regions of the world. Only 5 percent of the endangered plant species in Germany are threatened by alien species.

From a nature conservation point of view, the damage relevant to nature is separated from economic, health or other damage. Invasive alien species are limited to those that have clearly negative effects on the natural balance: they endanger biological diversity on one or more levels (ecosystems, species or genes). Four criteria for negative ecological effects can be distinguished:

Within its framework of national, regional and international obligations, Germany’s options for action for nature protection include:

Nature conservation may profit from plant protection, although it may hold a different view with respect to some categories of organisms. For example, pests of agriculture that are not invasive (posing no ecological threat) may be subject to control measures because of the economic damage they cause but such measures should not be called conservation measures. Then there are numerous examples of plants that threaten biodiversity but are not pests for land use purposes. With respect to such pest plants, questions arise as to the capability and willingness of the plant protection system to deal with them and whether there are transparent criteria to assess for which species the IPPC framework would be applicable. A further problem group consists of organisms that are useful plants for agriculture or forestry but that are invasive.

Germany’s federal nature conservation agency is conducting several projects relating to invasive alien species:

A German national strategy on invasive alien species

Developing a national strategy on invasive alien species involves several steps:

A policy on invasive alien species will engage all political sectors and levels. In Germany, non-governmental as well as governmental groups are involved at the federal level, the regional level of the Länder and the communities. The main identifiable sectors are nature conservation and agriculture. Forestry, hunting and fishery sectors also have competencies in the area of invasive alien species. Then there are sectors without direct competencies that, nevertheless, contribute to the problem of invasive alien species.

The strategy is based on connected elements in three groups:


Example of the elements that could be included in a national plan

Rationale for action

The invasive alien species problem
Environmental threats
Economic threats
Social and human health threats
International trade dimension
Pathways of invasion
What is working well
Inadequacy of current invasive alien species measures
International progress and lessons learned

A blueprint for action
Policy and management framework

Principles and practices
Roles and responsibilities
Strategic goals

Early detection
Rapid response
Eradication, containment and control

Implementation strategies

Risk analysis
Legislation and regulations
Education and outreach
International cooperation

Priority-setting criteria

Action plans

Terrestrial animals
Terrestrial plants

Canada’s national plan

Canada has also worked toward a national plan to address the threat of invasive alien species. The country institutionalized its commitment to implement the CBD in the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy (1995). An audit report in 2002 directed three recommendations toward Environment Canada: that the department coordinate the development of a national invasive species action plan, secure the commitment of all relevant departments and agencies to implement the plan, and put in place a monitoring and reporting system to track the effectiveness of measures taken. Environment Canada accepted the recommendations.

The draft national plan, whose main elements are shown in the box, acknowledges three strategic challenges to ensure native and domestic biodiversity are better protected:

Under the national plan, the definition of invasive alien species includes the concept of plant pest as defined by the IPPC. It is anticipated that the environment sector will become more engaged in the IPPC as the draft national plan moves from an overarching policy and management framework to an action plan on terrestrial plants.

Points to note

Section 5 describes the two different national plans in considerable detail. The context for the development of these plans and the elements of each may provide useful guidance for countries that wish to develop a national strategy on invasive alien species.

Despite the very different situations in Germany and Canada with respect to the threats posed by invasive alien species, many aspects are common to both national plans. They include the following needs:

This digest consists of information extracted from section 5, together with some background material and explanatory comment. For the full detail, argument, examples and supporting references, please refer to the following chapters 17-19.

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