In an attempt to engage a wider audience on invasive alien species and their threat, I thought it was time to try a more "sophisticated" communication tool than a simple article: a video animation. Opentoonz, a free 2D animation software program, provided a great opportunity to invest a reasonable amount of time on this task!
The use of animations for disseminating information on scientific issues is not new, but possibly having one more video of this kind - circulated by such a wide and prestigious organization as the IUCN - will help reaching a greater number of people compared to the other media such as scientific journals or technical reports, which normally would not attract much attention from the general public.
The topic of the video is clearly focused on invasive alien species (IAS), which are one of the most important direct drivers of biodiversity loss and ecosystem service changes, and constitute the greatest threat to fragile ecosystems such as islands. It is now widely accepted that the best way to deal with the threat of IAS is through the implementation of adequate prevention and mitigation measures. For this purpose, the IUCN - in collaboration with the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) developed a system to classify alien species, according to their impact on biodiversity at all levels. This system is called EICAT, which stands for Environmental Impact Classification for Alien Taxa. The overall approach is similar to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which over the years has become the international standard for classifying threatened species.
In EICAT, species are classified in a simple, objective and transparent way according to the magnitude of their impact, from Massive to Minimal concern. This information is critical to plan and prioritise policy and management measures to address the threat posed by biological invasions, and EICAT is expected to become a standard protocol to categorise such a threat.
In this way, EICAT will support scientists and policy makers to gain a better understanding of the impacts caused by different alien species in different regions of the world. The system has been already applied on some groups of species at the global level, as in the case of mammals, birds and amphibians. Some countries also started to use EICAT to identify national priorities, like in the case of Sweden (which used a simplified EICAT protocol to screen approximately 5,000 species to identify those potentially harmful to local biodiversity).
Before being formally published IUCN all EICAT assessments need to be validated by the relevant authority. After the validation, they will be all available in GISD, the Global Invasive Species Database managed by the ISSG.