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18
Development of a German national strategy on invasive alien species


Christiane Hubo and Arthur Steinmann

(1) C. Hubo: Research Centre for Nature Conservation Policy, University of Göttingen, Germany; e-mail: chubo@gwdg.de; (2) A. Steinmann: Institute for International Law, Department of International Economic Law, University of Göttingen, Germany

Abstract

The German national strategy on invasive alien species is being developed by an interdisciplinary research group of the University of Göttingen. The Research Centre for Nature Conservation Policy has provided the scientific basics and a proposal for the strategy development. The strategy is based on the following elements: an overview of the problem of species invasions in Germany, definitions of “neobiota”, the relevant actors in Germany, the legal situation in Germany, a comparison with national strategies of other countries, approaches to problem solving and options for action in Germany, organisms of non-native origins in Germany, cost-benefit estimations, cooperation and information exchange with neighbouring states, and education and public relations. The key questions are: How can measures on invasive alien species be coordinated effectively? Who are the relevant actors and how do they already cooperate? Which national and international instruments does Germany already have? What is the need for improving the administrative organization as well as the legal, economical and informational instruments?

Introduction

The development of a German national strategy on invasive alien species is the subject of a research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The project (“Basic principles for the development of a national strategy on invasive alien species”) aims to highlight areas for improvement and options for action in implementation of the obligation incurred under Article 8(h) of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The German national strategy on invasive alien species is being developed by an interdisciplinary research group of the University of Göttingen, composed of researchers from different faculties, including the Research Centre for Nature Conservation Policy as primary coordinator of research, the Centre for Nature Conservation, the Institute for International Law and the Institute for Agricultural Economics. The project was awarded to the University of Göttingen in April 2003 and finalized in June 2004. (It should be noted that this paper was prepared before that date and concerns the development of the plan. The final report has been submitted to the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and now serves as the basis for the ongoing discussion on implementation of the German national strategy on invasive alien species. The report is to be published in 2005.)

How to develop a national strategy on invasive alien species?

The development is a multifaceted process, involving several distinct steps. First, information on the current situation is needed. Therefore, the first step of the process will involve a situation analysis. In the second step, an evaluation of the effectiveness and deficiencies of the existing regulations will show where there is the need for action. This is the basis for the third step, the development of proposals that show options for action.

This paper describes, first, the political background to the question. Then the elements of the process of developing a German national strategy are explained. Lastly, it presents some first results from the legal viewpoint.

The political background

One aspect of the political background, which is very important for making a policy analysis and even for the development of a policy strategy, is the characteristics of the policy. The main points that characterize the policy on invasive alien species are that it spreads across political sectors and that all political levels are concerned; in Germany, this means the federal level, the regional level of the Länder and the communities. In consequence, the actors involved are from all political sectors and political levels as well as from several non-governmental groups. The range of players is represented by the table below. There are also various regulations and instruments in place which often are not well coordinated.

Table 1: Policy actors on invasive alien species.

Sector

Agency

NGO

Citizen

Media

Science

Nature conservation

I-1

II-1

III-1

IV-1

V-1

Agriculture

I-2

II-2

III-2

IV-2

V-2

Forestry

I-3

II-3

III-3

IV-3

V-3

Hunting

I-4

II-4

III-4

IV-4

V-4

Fishery

I-5

II-5

III-5

IV-5

V-5

Water management

I-6

II-6

III-6

IV-6

V-6

Road construction

I-7

II-7

III-7

IV-7

V-7

Green areas

I-8

II-8

III-8

IV-8

V-8

Tourism

I-9

II-9

III-9

IV-9

V-9

Traffic

I-10

II-10

III-10

IV-10

V-10

Import and export

I-11

II-11

III-11

IV-11

V-11

The single sectors differ in size, resources and political influence. The main identifiable sectors are nature conservation and agriculture. Nature conservation in Germany is governed by the young environmental department; agriculture is a traditionally well-developed sector with experiences and infrastructure dealing with plant protection. Even the forestry, hunting and fishery sectors are traditional sectors with competencies in the area of invasive alien species. Further, there are sectors without direct competencies that, nevertheless, contribute to the problem of invasive alien species. For instance, the road construction agencies are responsible for the trees and other plants near the roads; the green area units of the communities care for the management of biotops and other green areas. Their decisions in these cases are able to contribute to the problem of invasive species. The sector of traffic as well as the control concerning import and export play an important role in the cases of unintentional movement of alien species.

Because of the numerous separate participants and instruments in different political sectors there is a need for a coordinated procedure in order to use existing resources effectively. The strategy is to be developed in a political tuning process led by the Federal Ministry for the Environment.

In order to develop a concept for the overall protection of ecosystems from invasive alien species, the main political goals of the national strategy are the harmonization of basic conditions for a better cooperation of the stakeholders and the coordination of the measures. Further goals are the involvement of the relevant national and non-governmental participants and the implementation of the international and European guidelines.

Elements of the German national strategy

The Research Centre for Nature Conservation Policy will prepare the strategy in coordination with the other participants by offering the scientific basics and a proposal for the strategy development. The key questions are: How can the measures on invasive alien species be coordinated effectively? Who are the actors and how do they already cooperate? Which national and international instruments are presently in effect? Is there a need to improve the administrative organization as well as the legal, economical and informational instruments?

To answer these questions the strategy is based on a series of connected elements, which are analysed by ecological and economical, legal and political, and interdisciplinary approaches.

Ecological and economical elements and evaluation

Overview of the invasion problem in Germany

The first part contains a general overview of the invasion problem in Germany and an overview of existing data on invasive alien species in Germany. The main pathways for spread to and from Germany will be described and analysed. An annotated bibliography on ecological damage by neobiota in Germany and an evaluation of completed and current research and development projects on invasive alien species will show the state of play.

Need for research

A list of research projects and research results with a commentary will be produced to point out the need for further research. Research needs concerning the requirements for monitoring and quantification of ecological damage will also be highlighted.

Cost-benefit estimations

This element gives an overview of studies on cost-benefit estimations relating to the management of invasive alien species. It includes a review of the existing approaches to management of unwanted introductions and methods to calculate the costs, such as the cost of management measures or health costs. These are evaluated in relation to central Europe. An overview of combat efforts against particular species with details of their success and circumstances will help in appraising the effectiveness of different approaches.

Political and legal basis and evaluation

Definitions of neobiota

The definitions of neobiota used in national and international documents will be compiled in a synopsis, and their effect on the practical application of the laws will be analysed.

Actors in Germany

An overview will be given of the actors, their authorities, competencies and their cooperation with each other. The problems of and options for cooperation will be analysed based on expert interviews.

Legal situation in Germany

An overview of the relevant national and international regulations will show the existing legal situation. The effectiveness and shortcomings will be analysed and the fields where action is needed will be defined.

Comparison with national strategies of other countries

This element contains an overview, analysis and evaluation of the applicability of other national strategies in light of the need for action in Germany.

Possible solutions, the proposed action

Options for action

The CBD’s guiding principles on invasive alien species as well as the European strategy of the Bern Convention will be analysed, focusing on the legal and political implementation in Germany.

Subjects are the prevention and management of aliens (control, eradication). Criteria for the evaluation of the danger and the risks will be designed as the basis of the nature conservation assessment. Proposals for the regulation of authorities, competencies and interactions will be compiled.

Non-native origins of domestic species

The problem of non-native origins of domestic species will be analysed and evaluated; solutions for that problem will be developed.

Cooperation and information exchange with neighbouring states

This part will show options for control and coordination of the spreading of organisms from Germany and will provide suggestions for an information exchange on the international level. The possibility of creation of a central German data collection on invasive alien species will be examined.

Education and public relations

A concept for differentiated public relations and education targeting various groups will be developed.

Draft of a national strategy

The drafting of a national strategy contains four points: (1) a problem analysis based on the results of the political, legal, ecological and economical investigations; (2) the need for action to harmonize the legal and political basic conditions and to implement the international and European guidelines; (3) the definition of authorities, competencies and cooperation requirements for national actors and for the participation of stakeholders; (4) a table with priorities and time goals for developing a national plan, including proposals for the necessary steps in detail.

Focal points of legal problems

The legal working group assists in the drafting of a national strategy in coordination with the other working groups. In doing so, disciplines of international and European law, as well as the international trade law of the WTO must be considered.

The output of the legal working group is closely linked to that of the other faculties: the biological determinations build the basis for the legal work, while the results of the legal analysis, especially relating to the actors concerned, provides the basis of the questionnaires to be drafted by the political science working group. Lastly, it will be the task of the legal working group to analyse the proposed national strategy and safeguard its coherence with the international, European and national legal frameworks.

The legal work on development of the national strategy is divided into three distinct parts:

The definition issue

Part of the work of the legal working group involves the task of gathering and evaluating the definitions used for the problem of “invasive alien species” in national and international documents. The relevant documents on the issue are being compiled.

As a preliminary evaluation it can be said that there seems to be no clear definition of the concept of “alien” species in national or international documents. Many international environmental treaties incorporate references to the introduction of “new” or “alien” species into specific environments; however, definitions are seldom given. The CBD uses a wide definition of “alien” species, which includes any species or lower taxon that is “introduced outside its natural past or present distribution”.

In the German national legislation the problem of definitions is currently being addressed by work in the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. The current legislation on the issue, namely the federal nature conservation law (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz, BNatSchG), includes a definition of the concepts of “native” and “non-native” (i.e. “alien”) species. In § 10 BNatSchG, a “non-native” species is defined as a wild species that has not occurred in the relevant region during the past 100 years. This time frame has caused problems in the re-introduction of species that were commonly believed to be “native” to German regions but that have been extinct for the past 100 years. As a result, a new definition is being drafted as a basis for further discussion.

As for the definition of an “invasive” species, the legal working group relies on the guiding principles of the CBD in which an invasive species is a species whose introduction and/or spread threaten biodiversity.

The legal status quo

The second, most work-intensive step of the project deals with the collection of data. In the legal portion, this means the collection of international, European and national legal documents that set the framework for the development of the national strategy.

First, the relevant national laws are analysed. The central norms that deal with invasive alien species from the perspective of nature conservation can be found in the federal law on nature conservation (the BNatSchG), as well as the regional laws of the Länder. However, the introduction of species is also dealt with in other legal frameworks, of which some do not have a focus on the conservation of biodiversity, or even a focus on the environment. These include federal and regional laws on forestry, animal protection, fisheries and agriculture, as well as regulations on waste management. A comprehensive list of these national regulations is being compiled.

On the European and international side, all relevant documents dealing with invasive alien species are being collected. References to invasive species can be found in multiple international legal conventions, such as the IPPC, global and regional water protection treaties, the Ramsar convention on wetlands and other treaties.

This step will also include the analysis and evaluation of the experiences of other countries’ national strategies. Examples being compiled are the experiences of the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. The experiences and strategies of other countries will be analysed for their applicability to the distinct German situation. The recent legislation of Australia and New Zealand are examples of coherent and elaborate systems that are felt to be necessary for the special geographical and biological situation of these countries. The German situation, as a country in the middle of central Europe, has a different starting point, which will warrant an individual approach to the problem.

The national strategy

On the basis of this analysis and evaluation, the combined working groups will devise a draft for a national strategy. It will be the work of the legal working group to advise and assess the legal coherence and sustainability of proposed measures. Additionally, should the draft contain changes or novelties to legislation, it will the task of the legal working group to compose these proposals.


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