Improving the evidence base for tackling the threat of invasive non-native species

Invasive Species week 2017 takes place from March 27 until April 2.


This is the third year Invasive Species Week has been running and it aims to bring organisations across Britain together, to raise awareness of invasive non-native species (INNS) and to inspire people to take action to prevent their spread. Within the Wildlife and Countryside Link Invasive Non-Native Species Working Group (which I Chair) we are raising awareness of the impacts INNS have on our wildlife. This blog post will also feature as part of a series of blogs on the Wildlife and Countryside Link website during Invasive Species Week. I want to use this opportunity to concentrate on advancing the evidence of INNS.

Finding existing evidence:

Ecological evidence plays a big part in understanding what makes a non-native species invasive. It is vital to understand the ecology of invasive species and their potential impacts, as well as helping to predict which ones will arrive in Britain next, and how prevent spread. Scientific research also plays a vital role in detecting when a species is in the wild causing negative impacts and in helping to know how to eradicate them. Therefore, as part of Invasive Species Week, the British Ecological Society has produced an Invasive Species Virtual Issue. It has kindly been edited by two of members, Manuela González-Suárez (Associate Editor for Journal of Applied Ecology) and Pablo González-Moreno. The Invasive Species Virtual Issue and all of its papers will be open access for two weeks as part of our effort to help share evidence and inform good practice. The Virtual Issue showcases recent work on invasive species in our journals.  The studies have been grouped into three general themes:

  1. Characterising what makes the perfect invasive species (invasiveness).
  2. Studies that address impacts on ecological processes, such as on species interactions and broad scale ecosystem and community impacts.
  3. Studies that focus on management particularly in relation to decision-making tools, e-DNA sampling and spatial models to help manage INNS at different stages.

This will be a valuable resource for those aiming to prevent the arrival of new INNS and the spread of those already present.

Another important element of our work at the British Ecological Society is helping to bridge the gap between applied ecological research and practical environmental management. Our Journal of Applied Ecology includes a Practitioners Perspectives section which provides an important platform for individuals involved in hands-on management of ecological resources, such as the eradication or control of INNS. It allows them to present their personal views on the direction of applied ecological research. These short articles aim to be thought provoking and challenge the science community to consider, for example, the perspectives of those individuals working on the ground to eradicate INNS. This is an avenue that provides an opportunity for environmental NGOs and practitioners engage with, challenge and advance the evidence of INNS.

Making research more applied:

There are opportunities for researchers to gain more information to help identify how to make their science more applied. The Convention on Biological Diversity remains an important international treaty for the UK. We are signed up to Aichi Biodiversity Target 9 that “by 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.” Therefore, it helps to align research with the Convention on Biological Diversity Guiding Principles and in particular the priorities of INNS prevention which include the pathways through which INNS enter GB, improving biosecurity measures, and raising awareness of INNS. Improving the evidence underpinning methods of early detection and ensuring appropriate rapid response techniques once an INNS has been detected is vital; as is the rehabilitation and long term management of sites or species. The GB Non-Native Species Strategy and its publically available implementation plan set out the CBD principles and is a useful document to use to align research within an applied framework in Britain.

Finally, the first research action within the GB Non-Native Species Strategy implementation plan is to ‘establish a working group with responsibility for improving coordination, developing a strategic plan, communicating with the research community, and influencing funders of research’. While, this is has yet to be set up it will provide an extremely important link between the research community and policy-makers.

I hope this post gives some helpful information in improving the links between the research community and practitioners as well as helping researchers know where to go to help make their research more applied.  However, I am always happy to discuss this further if anyone is interested – get in touch