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Improving access to information on alien species in Europe


An article by IES scientists on the need for harmonising and integrating online information sources on alien species in Europe has recently been published in Environmental Management. The study found large differences in the data available in national, regional and global online databases, and proposes the creation of a network of online interoperable web services that would provide access to distributed resources for use in reporting and further analysis. This would require harmonisation, standardisation, conformity to international nomenclature standards, and agreement on common definitions of alien and invasive species.

Biological invasions are among the biggest direct drivers of biodiversity loss. Invasive alien species (IAS) can displace native species, modify habitats, change community structure, affect ecosystem processes, and cause substantial economic losses (conservatively estimated at over €12 billion annually in the EU alone). IAS and their pathways need to be properly identified, prioritised and managed. This requires a comprehensive research-based information system on biological invasions that would underpin EU policy on IAS.

The study analysed 43 existing online EU alien species databases. Many discrepancies were identified and no one database was found to be comprehensive. In order to facilitate efficient access to reliable information on alien species, the authors recommend that a network of online interoperable web services be established that would provide access to information in distributed resources. In order for this information to be coherent, all European countries should contribute to the network by keeping regularly updated national databases of alien species in a standard harmonised way.

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