Early detection and monitoring of invasive alien species
In October 2021 we were approached by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) to investigate IAS monitoring systems and data collection mechanisms currently in place in bordering countries. IAS, also better known as invasive alien species, are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are introduced, accidentally or intentionally, due to the movement of people and goods, outside their natural geographic range. IAS’ movement, causes them to have an adverse impact on local biodiversity, including the decline or even the extinction of native species.
This happens in many ways: through competition, predation, or even the transmission of pathogens which, in turn, cause the disruption of local ecosystems and ecosystem functions. Given the numerous repercussions mentioned, having an early picture of invasive alien species’ that are progressing towards the Netherlands, was therefore key for the NVWA. In that way, they can continue to ensure the protection of Dutch biodiversity and that’s where S&P came in the picture.
As a result of Invasive Alien Species’ impact on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural systems, IAS’ damage is not just limited to the environment itself. Other types of threats include threats to food security, which constitutes a fundamental basis for the livelihood of the world’s population, threats to human health as well as to the world’s economies. Such damage, which is further aggravated by the ongoing climate change, pollution, habitat loss and human-induced disturbance, has been estimated to be around 12 million euros per year in the EU.
Prevention, early detection and management
To face this challenge, the EU has developed Regulation 1143/2014, to actively deal with the problem of invasive alien species. The regulation, which follows an internationally agreed hierarchical approach on combatting IAS, envisages three types of measures: prevention, early detection as well as rapid eradication and management. As a result of which, member states are required to put in place surveillance systems, to detect the presence of IAS of Union concern, and to take measures to prevent them from establishing. Yet, actions taken by member states alone are not sufficient. Concerted management action is needed to prevent species from spreading any further.
Report on IAS monitoring systems
Dutch biodiversity is in a continuous exchange with that of other countries. After all, nature does not stop at borders. It is therefore important to have an idea of which species are approaching the Netherlands and to which extent they can pose a risk to biodiversity in the country. And that’s exactly what the NVWA asked us to do. Throughout our report we investigated IAS monitoring systems and data collection mechanisms in countries close to the Netherlands. These include, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Northern France and the EU.
To build a solid, methodological foundation of our report, we conducted a thorough desk research, focusing on each country neighbouring with the Netherlands individually. As a next step, identified organisations and experts were contacted for in-depth interviews. The purpose of these was to obtain more detailed information about the initiatives found, to get insight into additional systems that collect data on IAS, and to learn about further organisations or experts that occupy a relevant position in neighbouring regions and countries.
To provide the NVWA with actionable insights, we synthesized the recommendations extracted and the information gathered from our findings for each country. We concluded that building a network with key colleagues in the bordering regions needed to be one of our next steps. This would allow us to foster the regular exchange of data and knowledge through meetings and to take collective containment measures as early and proportionately as possible in order to protect European biodiversity.