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Managing invasive alien species in the Asia-
Pacific region: information initiatives
for better decision-making

Soetikno S. Sastroutomo and Loke Wai Hong*


The spread and proliferation of invasive alien species (IAS) are now recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and economic well being of human society. The total annual cost of dealing with IAS worldwide is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, including costs of control, detrimental effects on human health and losses in agricultural production and ecosystem services.

The traditional approach of gathering and disseminating biological information related to IAS is clearly inadequate to deal with the magnitude of the issue. Critical and accurate information on IAS as well as fast delivery are needed for relevant authorities to conduct risk and impact assessments, inspection, early detection, monitoring, and implementation of effective control measures. These needs are juxtaposed by the necessity for long-term management strategies.

Electronic media and online databases offer an efficient solution for the storage, analysis and rapid distribution of potentially huge amounts of biological data and knowledge related to IAS. About 200 Internet databases are available and can be selectively used to build national information systems on IAS in Asia-Pacific economies. Some data banks and information resources such as GISP, ISSG, CBD, ENAC and CABI are discussed.

A proposal for the development of an ASEAN IAS database to further support the management of IAS in Southeast Asia has been prepared and submitted to donor agencies for funding consideration.


What is an invasive alien species?

The serious problems of invasive species or IAS were acknowledged first during the CBD meeting in 2000 (under Article 8 – In situ Conservation).

An IAS can be defined as an organism that is non-native to the country/ecosystem under consideration. Its introduction (intentional or unintentional) will cause or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or damage to human health. It is considered a threat to biodiversity, second only to habitat loss. It causes serious impediments to conservation and the sustainable use of global, regional and local biodiversity and generates significant negative impacts on goods and services provided by ecosystems.

Most of the serious invasive species possess or at least have some of these characteristics: (i) rapid growth rate, (ii) efficient dispersal capabilities, (iii) large reproductive output and (iv) broad environmental tolerance.

The most serious effects of IAS are: competition with native taxa of flora and fauna; hybridization with genetically close species; causing changes in soil physical and chemical characteristics; modification of natural and semi-natural habitats; propagation of pests and diseases.

Global information on IAS

The traditional approach of gathering and disseminating related biological information is clearly inadequate to deal with the magnitude of the issue. Critical and accurate information on IAS as well as fast delivery are needed for relevant authorities to conduct risk and impact assessments, inspection, early detection, monitoring, and implementation of effective control measures. These needs are juxtaposed by the necessity for long-term management strategies. The most effective solution to address the immense need for IAS information is through Internet databases.

Sellers et al. (2004) prepared a list of more than 200 Internet databases that detail, inter alia, invasive species, relevant literature, taxonomies, expertise, distribution, and images as well as data on other species of world flora and fauna. This paper was presented during the expert meeting of the Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN) held in Baltimore, United States in April 2004. Some of the important information and databases (regional and global) are described hereunder.

The Global Invasive Species Program (GISP)

The GISP was established in 1997 to address global threats caused by IAS, and to provide support to the implementation of Article 8(h) of the CBD. The key partners during Phase I were the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), CAB International (CABI) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Phase I was partly funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

A plethora of information is available from this site, such as databases, publications, interactive maps and newsletters.

The GISP also organized seven regional workshops to assess IAS threats, impacts and needs in different regions. The results of these workshops were published as national reports and proceedings.

Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)

The ISSG was established in 1994 in New Zealand and is part of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the IUCN. The ISSG is a global group of 146 scientific and policy experts on invasive species from 41 countries. In addition to its headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand, the ISSG has three regional groups in North America, Europe and South Asia.

The ISSG provides advice on threats from invasives and control or eradication methods to IUCN members, conservationists and policy-makers. The group's activities focus primarily on invasive species that cause biodiversity loss, with particular attention on those that threaten oceanic islands.

The ISSG also facilitates exchange of information and expertise on IAS. It publishes the Aliens newsletter and manages the Aliens-L list server with IUCN support, which houses the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD).

The GISD contains information on species, their taxonomy and ecology, their native and invaded distribution ranges, impacts, contacts and references as well as management methods. The database is user friendly, quick and reliable.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD recognized that there is an urgent need to address the impact of IAS. Steps toward eradication, control and mitigation of their impacts combined with legislation and guidelines at national, regional and international levels were addressed during COP 6 as priority areas. Invasive alien species are considered a cross-cutting issue and therefore are also considered under the various thematic areas of the CBD.

COP 6 adopted 15 guiding principles for the prevention, introduction and mitigation of impacts of IAS (Decision VI/23).

COP 7 requested the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to establish an ad hoc technical expert group to address gaps in international regulatory frameworks and to provide the SBSTTA with recommendations prior to COP 9. This group will meet in New Zealand in May 2005(Decision VII/13).

Additionally, the SBSTTA is developing indicators for consideration by the COP for many of the thematic areas of the Convention, including IAS. These indicators will initially be considered and discussed during SBSTTA 10 in February 2005 and again later at COP 8 in 2006.

The IAS Web site of the CBD contains information on, inter alia, thematic programmes, guiding principles, COP decisions and details of approximately 90 case studies.

Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia–Pacific (NACA)

This Web site provides users with information and experiences on aquatic IAS. It serves as a tool to raise awareness and to assist users in making science-based decisions concerning the risks associated with movements of aquatic animals that may have the potential to become IAS. The Web site is organized around the general principles of “risk analysis”.

CAB International –

CAB International (CABI) is a science-based, international non-profit making organization that specializes in information and sustainable solutions for agricultural and environmental problems in developed and developing countries.

Several CABI activities and initiatives related to IAS information are described hereunder.

Compendium Programme

CAB International is developing a range of multimedia electronic compendia. The compendium concept involves development of encyclopaedic multimedia tools that bring together a wide range of different types of science-based information. Each compendium comprises information sourced from experts, which is edited and compiled by an independent scientific organization. It is updated routinely and supported by a diverse International Development Consortium.

The Compendium Programme is active in these areas:

Plant Diversity and Invasive Species are being explored.


Detailed information can be found at

Currently only the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC) has substantial information on IAS. It includes the results of 18-month projects to enhance the contents of the CPC on invasive species and forest pests of quarantine concern: 300 new datasheets – 160 on invasive species, mainly plants; 140 on forest pests of quarantine importance and 130 datasheet reviews.

Invasive Species Compendium

There is interest in the development of an IAS Compendium among various consortium members of existing compendia, other users and from within CABI. In 2001/2002 a feasibility study for the development of an IAS Compendium was initiated by USDA–ARS, a consortium member of the CPC.

An Expert consultation was organized in Washington DC, United States in June 2002. This workshop recommended that CABI take the lead in the development of an IAS Compendium. Surveys of IAS stakeholders, especially in North America, indicate an acute need for a science-based, authoritative knowledge bank on all aspects of the topic, to house the world's expert knowledge in one convenient, updated resource. It will benefit from links with the many local and regional initiatives on this subject.

A proposal on the IAS Compendium has been prepared for funding consideration and will be divided into two phases:

The IAS Compendium will include:

In addition to the compendium, a series of books on IAS will be published by CABI in collaboration with relevant institutions and scientists. The first issue is Invasive plant species of the world – a reference guide to environmental weeds by E. Weber.

ASEAN IAS Information Network

In the last ten years CABI South East Asian Regional Centre (CABI SEARC) has been active in the regions related to insect pests, weeds as well as invasive management. However, specific activities on IAS only started in 2003. A needs’ assessment survey on IAS in ASEAN countries via focused questionnaires was conducted in 2003 together with ASEANET (the Southeast Asian Loop of BioNET International).

The most important findings are the need for:

Based on these findings, a proposal on an ASEAN IAS Information Network has been submitted for funding consideration. The main objective of this proposal is to develop a Web-based knowledge bank on IAS for ASEAN countries. The I3N (of the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network) Cataloguer tool, developed by the California Information Node, a partner of the U.S. National Biological Information Infrastructure would be used for training and distribution to all country coordinators.


The growing frequency of IAS incursions worldwide and their impact continue to threaten biodiversity, ecosystems, resource availability, national economies and human health at an alarming rate. Invasive alien species are spreading into new regions at unprecedented speed and reach. The problem of IAS is likely to worsen with time because of climatic changes that promote species migrations and expanding world trade that transports organisms both deliberately and unintentionally widely and rapidly across natural geographic barriers via air, land and sea traffic.

Managing IAS is thus becoming more challenging and will be a lengthy mandate. Risk and impact assessments, inspection, early detection, and monitoring and implementation of effective control measures are therefore highly dependent on the availability of succinct, up-to-date information that can keep pace with new invasion threats. It is fortunate that many IAS information sources have been developed and existing electronic databases from recognized institutions dealing with IAS are available for use by developing countries in the Asia–Pacific region to forge their national policies and control strategies before their own databases are developed.


Sellers, E., Simpson, A. & Curd-Hetrick, S. 2004. List of invasive alien species (IAS) online databases and databases containing IAS information. A preliminary draft document, prepared for the Expert Meeting toward the implementation of a Global Invasive Species Information Network. Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

* CAB International, South East Asia Regional Centre, P.O. Box 210, 43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia

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