November 08, 2012

Europe keeps investing in invasive alien species

Over 7 million euro are now available for projects aiming at increasing knowledge and understanding on biological invasions, as well as alien species impact in relation to both public perception and climate and other environmental changes. These are the themes specifically addressed by the new BiodivERsA 2012-2013 Pan-European call for research proposals specifically dedicated to "Invasive Species and Biological Invasions". The deadline for mandatory pre-registration is 14th of December 2012.

The European partners in the BiodivERsA network have already joined important efforts to organize and fund a pan-European call for research projects on invasive alien species (IAS) and biological invasions in the past. For example, within the 2008 joint call the BiodivERsA partners had funded the project RACE - Risk Assessment of Chytridiomycosis to European Amphibian BiodiversityThis project focuses on Chytridiomycosis, an amphibian disease responsible of causing die-offs and even extinctions of many amphibian populations around the world. The disease is caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (also called Bd for short), a fungus that for this reason is also considered one of the 100 World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species by the IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group. In this context RACE aims at assessing the risk that Bd poses to European amphibians and at developing tools and protocols to enable surveillance of Bd across Europe. RACE also aims at improving the understanding where in situ mitigation and captive-breeding conservation efforts are most necessary to preserve European amphibian biodiversity. The findings should then be formalised into a European Threat Abatement Plan (ETAP).

African clawed frogs, a potential vector of Bd. Photo © Riccardo Scalera

Many research projects focusing on invasive alien species have been financed so far in Europe under the auspices of the various Framework Programmes (a scheme which also BiodivERsA belongs to). For example, according to the result of a specific study published on Biological Invasion journal, focusing on the period 1994-2006, the EC has funded a total of 90 research projects dealing with IAS, for a total budget of more than 88 million euro. Of these, 70 projects focused entirely on IAS and the other 20 had only a part of the activities related to this issue. That is a very important contribution to face the threat of biological invasions despite the lack of either a specific strategy or a dedicated financial instrument in the EU. Beside, this response complies with the priorities of the Sixth Environment Action Programme of the European Community for 2002-2012, and shows that concrete steps are being undertaken in the right direction to support the European Commission’s policy according to which IAS are recognised as a key pressure on biodiversity and a priority for action.