As stated during the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP 6 held in La Hague, 2002), signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) committed themselves “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level”. Assuming that biodiversity loss is driven by five major threats that consist of habitat loss, climate change, over-exploitation, pollution and alien species invasions , the present action focusses on establishing an exhaustive inventory of invaders out-competing European native species.
Managing such a project relies on both a networking activity and a data analysing approach. Efficient networking allows the community of researchers involved in biodiversity monitoring to reach a critical mass of expertise to create synergies at the European level. This leads to the creation of a registry of experts that covers many realms such as ecology, genetics, legislation, risk assessment and taxonomy. By doing so, collecting all relevant data which are spread throughout various European research organisations can be performed rigorously and thereby yield an exhaustive database.
This regularly updated database encompasses thousands of plants, fungi, amphibians, invertebrates, mammals, fish, reptiles and birds throughout the European Union. Marine data concerning North Africa as well as Near East countries are included. As a result, more than 10,500 alien species are described within this database. Every species is characterised by information dealing with native range, date of introduction, habitat, known impacts and population status. The dissemination of information is not restricted to a circle of experts but also aims to raise the public awareness. To do so, the inventory provides detailed factsheets for a hundred of the most invasive species. As there are no global standards for carrying out an information and observation system dealing with alien species in terms of sampling, data collecting, spatial extent and resolution, the project proposes a novel common European standard which is based upon the existing Common European Chorological Grid Reference System (ca. size of 50 x 50 km). The novel methodology is applied to 100 species for which factsheets are drafted, excepted for the marine environment monitoring where a different format is applied.
The project outcome targets mainly policy makers, environmental managers, importers of alien species, researchers, students and people involved. The project (funded under FP6 a grant funding programme) is coordinated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (United Kingdom) and already provides a free tool on the internet; the Technology Readiness Level may be estimated to 7 on the TRL scale. Assuming that biological invasions are dynamic phenomena, a key-success factor of such a tool lies in updating data sets both in time and space.
The next step might be to design a more user-friendly version, putting forward a software tool so that data concerning invasions of alien species could be quickly reachable and understood in terms of environmental and economic impacts for all stakeholders of the environmental management community. This should catch the interest of sectors that might be impacted by invasive species such as agriculture, fisheries, insurance companies, etc.