Invasive species policy: recommendations for Europe

Invasive species were a featured topic last week at INTECOL. Their potential impacts, both economically and ecologically were discussed, and delegates took part in a workshop to discuss how to tackle these with a harmonised response. Last Thursday, Piero Genovesi from the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research shared his expertise in the area and explored the options for invasive species policy in Europe.

Over the past few decades, there have been an increased number of policies on invasive alien species across the world. Enforcement of these, however, is low, limiting their efficacy.

What should a policy on invasive species look like? Piero outlined the key pillars that would lead to effective management of the species across Europe:

1)     Regulation of trade
2)     Management of key pathways
3)     Early Warning Rapid Response system
4)     Eradication
5)     Information flow
6)     Communication to society

Lessons can be learnt from the different approaches used across the world. “White lists” and “black lists” are the two main methods used currently.

Under a white list approach, any species imported into a country or region requires a risk assessment. Australia and New Zealand have implemented this type of policy to great effect. In New Zealand, the numbers of non-native mammals present in the country are low in comparison to other areas. There does need to be long-term investment in this approach, however. Despite a global recession, the budget for biosecurity in New Zealand is still high (€113 million in 2012).

Other countries, such as Japan and the UK use a black list approach. Here, only some species are named as particular threats. In Japan, this has still been successful to an extent. In the four years after the policy was introduced, there was a decrease in the number of non-native species present in the country. One problem with Japan’s policy is that it does not cover parasites or mites, which have the potential to impact an area as much as any other species. Australia is free of varroa mite, but can only realistically maintain this through stringent policy.

A Europe-wide strategy on invasive species has been slow to implement. As mentioned in a previous blog post, a draft EU Biodiversity Strategy is expected to be published later this year. Early indicators show that the legislation is likely to include:

– a list of invasive species of EU concern
– provisions on prevention, Early Warning Rapid Response systems, and species management.
– a surveillance system, with an obligation to report presence of particular species
– creation of a Committee with government representatives

Piero also highlighted the need to communicate policy to citizens. In Canada, the province of Alberta has successfully eradicated the Norway rat through a long-term programme that started over 60 years ago. The programme has been cheap to implement, but relies heavily on effective communication to society about the species and the benefits the eradication could bring. Piero stressed how important this is for an EU policy that will cover multiple countries and cultures.