European Commission release proposal to tackle invasive species

The European Commission have this week published their regulations on Invasive Alien Species, the pillars of which were discussed at INTECOL and in our earlier blog posts. For many, this announcement is not before time, with some groups believing higher priority should have been placed on tackling this threat much sooner. Invasive species have huge economic consequences, with damage to infrastructure and their impacts on crop yields currently valued at around £12bn every year across the EU member states. They also cause ecological problems, with invaders considered to be one of the major causes of biodiversity loss and species extinction.

There are over 1,500 invasive species currently recognized as causing negative impacts across Europe.

A trait shared by many invasive species is that they are ecological generalists, meaning they are able to tolerate a variety of habitats and aggressively compete with native wildlife for resources; they also tend to reproduce rapidly and lack natural enemies in their adopted ecosystem. The consequence of these traits is that the task of controlling invasive species will only ever increase whilst no action is being taken. With their management and removal costing billions each year, invasive species create a major international policy problem; tackling these species on a national scale is just not a sustainable option.

Unfortunately most attempts employed at the national level have so far been reactive in nature, leading to fragmented, inefficient and ultimately costly efforts. So it is no surprise that conservation organisations have welcomed this week’s announcement on EU wide action. Wildlife does not recognize borders, so if efforts are not coordinated between nations any regulation of a species in one state can be undermined by repeated reintroduction of the species from neighbouring states.

The importance of this new proposal is its comprehensive strategy; an EU wide shared information network is a vital tool for enabling individual states to identify threats before they become established. Meaning for the first time there is the possibility of tackling invaders through proactive and preventative measures.

The proposed action is focused on a list of invasive species with union concern, a cap of 50 species to be included in this list is being proposed; the list itself will be compiled through risk assessment and scientific evidence drawn from the member states. Action against these species will be centred on on three main intervention areas:

  1. Prevention: identifying and closing down the routes through which species are introduced to member states.
  2. Early Warning and Rapid response: immediate action to eradicate species identified as being of union concern.
  3. Management: a coordinated and harmonized approach to dealing with established invasive species, with the intention being on minimising the damage they cause.

The report makes no reference to the suggestion by Piero Genovesi that communication of this information to the public would be important for a successful execution of the policy; however communication on this scale could be very difficult to legislate centrally and may be better left to the discretion of member states. The proposal by the European Commission is to be adopted by the European Parliament and Council before becoming operational. A summary can be found here along with detailed questions and answers on the proposal.