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Belgium: Bio-Diversity

EU Publishes Report on the Threat of Invasive Alien Species

| Editor: Alexander Stark

The grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is native to deciduous forests in the USA and has been introduced in Europe, where it is causing the local extinction of red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) populations through competition and disease. This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders.
The grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is native to deciduous forests in the USA and has been introduced in Europe, where it is causing the local extinction of red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) populations through competition and disease. This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders. (Source: Pixabay)

The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has published the first Baseline Distribution of Invasive Alien Species of concern. The 37 invasive alien species covered by this report have been prioritised as species that need to be addressed at the level of the EU territory.

Brussels/Belgium — Invasive alien species (IAS) pose an important threat to biodiversity, with potentially severe ecological and socio-economic impacts. The first list of IAS of Union concern includes 37 species, including both animals and plants. According to the EU Regulation on IAS, Member States must prevent the introduction and spread of those species, enforce effective early detection and rapid eradication mechanisms for new appearances, and adopt management measures for those that are already widely spread.

The report is based on the best available knowledge, resulting from data aggregated through the European Alien Species Information Network (Easin) in collaboration with the competent authorities of the Member States.

For each IAS of Union concern, the report provides spatial information, at both country and grid level covering information on the year and country of first introduction into the EU, the main pathway of introduction, the taxonomic group, the habitat, the origin, and the impact.

The highest number of IAS of Union concern have been found in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany.

The red-eared terrapin turtle is the most common IAS of Union concern across the EU, found in 24 Member States. It is followed by the signal crayfish and the Chinese mitten crab, which are present in 23 and 22 Member States, respectively. Certain species are still in an early invasion stage in the EU (for example the small Indian mongoose, the Kudzu vine and the fox squirrel) or are not yet present at all (e.g. the mile-a-minute weed).

Most IAS of Union concern have been introduced into the EU by escaping or being released from captivity (e.g. from botanical gardens or aquaria). Most of the IAS of Union concern originate from America (mainly North America) and Asia (mainly East Asia).

Citizen Scientists Can Help Spot Invasive Alien Species

Many IAS of Union concern are large and easily recognisable. They include many species found in and around urban areas (such as the Muntjac deer, House crow and Coypu). For this reason, the general public, and particularly citizen scientists, could be easily involved in the reporting and monitoring IAS of Union concern.

To this end, a dedicated smartphone application has recently been developed by the JRC. This Invasive Alien Species Europe app can act as a supplementary tool for monitoring IAS of Union concern, and increase cooperation with citizens.

The European Alien Species Information Network (EASIN), developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, provides a one-stop-shop access to data on alien species in Europe to underpin policy and management decisions and for anyone interested.

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