Towards an early warning and information system for invasive alien species (IAS) threatening biodiversity in Europe

The European Environment Agency has issued a new technical report „Towards an early warning and informationsystem for invasive alien species (IAS) threatening biodiversity in Europe.“  Invasive alien species have become a major driver of biodiversity loss, second only to habitat fragmentation in recent decade. Europe is particularly affected by alien species, which are invading the continent an unprecedented pace. Their impact means that many of the region’s rarest endemic species are on the brink of extinction and that our well-being and economies are affected. Establishing an early warning and rapid response framework for Europe become a key target. The present publication is the EEA contribution to achieving this goal.  The preface of this publication reads:

In recent decade, invasions of various alien species have become a major driver of biodiversity loss, second only to habitat fragmentation. One-third of bird species included in the IUCN Red List, 6 % of mammals, and 11 % of amphibians are threatened by invasive species, which account for more extinctions worldwide than any other agent.

Europe is particularly affected by alien species, which are invading the continent an unprecedented pace. DAISIE — a Sixth Framework Programme project funded by the EU — records the presence of more than 10 000 alien species in Europe. Their impact means that many of the region’s rarest endemic species are on the brink of extinction. Examples include the European mink, the white‑clawed crayfish and the white-headed duck.

Invasions do not only threaten our biodiversity. They also affect our well-being and economies, causing losses exceeding EUR 12 billion annually, endangering the ecosystem services that we depend on and transforming the landscapes that have formed Europe’s cultural background for millennia.

The European Commission has formally recognised the urgent need to tackle invasions in its Communication ‘Towards an EU Strategy on Invasive Species’ (COM (2008) 789 final). There it commits to develop a policy on the issue and establish an early warning system. The Council of European Ministers endorsed these commitments in the Conclusions of its 2953rd meeting (Luxembourg, 25 June 2009). In addition, G8 Environment Ministers in 2009 stressed the urgent need to combat invasive species, calling on the world community to establish a global early warning system.

The rapid increase in invasive species in recent decades requires us to implement these commitments immediately. In particular, establishing an early warning and rapid response framework should be a key target for post-2010 biodiversity protection activities.

It is essential that we improve our ability to react to invasions. That means enhancing prompt detection of new incursions and correct taxonomic identification of invaders, assessing related risks and ensuring immediate reporting of relevant information to the competent authorities.

The present publication is the EEA contribution to achieving this goal. It is based on a longer EEA‑managed study, ‘Towards an early warning and information system for invasive alien species (IAS) threatening biodiversity in Europe’. Prepared by leading European scientists led by ISPRA, the study assesses the models for a European early warning system, identifying key challenges and cost estimates for different institutional managements.

In past years, the EEA has invested considerable resources in addressing the issue of alien species. Another major initiative in this context was the Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators (SEBI 2010) project, aimed at ensuring maximum streamlining and comparability of national, regional and global biodiversity indicators. A specific SEBI 2010 Expert Group on Trends in Invasive Alien Species in Europe developed specific indicators for inclusion in the SEBI 2010 indicator set.

Ensuring transparent and authoritative information sharing has always been the core business of EEA. Integrating knowledge about invasive species into the Biodiversity Information System for Europe (BISE), and supporting advanced platforms to share biodiversity information across Europe, will enhance science‑based decision-making, a key contribution from EEA.

Read the full technical report in PDF format here.

Citation: Towards an early warning and informationsystem for invasive alien species (IAS) threatening biodiversity in Europe, Technical Report 05/2010, European Environment Agency, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Union, 2010, ISBN 978-92-9213-099-2, ISSN 1725-2237, DOI 10.2800/4167

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