Life Invasaqua, an Iberian project with an Europeanist heart
The European Union recognizes some 12,000 exotic species, of which 15 percent are invasive. The budget to control invasive species is close to 12.5 billion euros a year.
A species is exotic when it establishes itself outside its native environment, almost always caused by human action.
When a flora or fauna causes a negative effect in its new colonized environment, affecting biodiversity, economic activities and society, it is called an invasive alien species.
These species displace native ones, prey on them, compete for territory and food, modify ecosystems and alter water quality. But they also damage infrastructure, affect crops, cause huge economic losses and carry new diseases.
In 2014, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union approved an ambitious legislative framework to prevent, minimize and mitigate the impacts caused by these species.
And in July 2016, the European Commission approved its first list of Invasive Alien Species.
The species included in the list cannot be introduced intentionally in any EU member country and transporting, selling, cultivating, keeping and, of course, releasing them into the environment are prohibited. However, their numbers are continuously increasing.
Bioinvasion in the Iberian Peninsula
In the case of the Iberian Peninsula, considered one of the global bioinvasion hotspots, aquatic ecosystems are especially at risk.
Here, there are about 200 invasive alien species, both flora and fauna. And research indicates that this number is increasing at the rate of two or three new species each year.
As an example, Portuguese rivers are home to 65 species of fish, but only 45 are native; a growing problem, because every two years a new exotic species of fish enters Portugal.
However, the public is unaware of the problem, its environmental and economic impact and the benefits of controlling and eradicating the foreign species.
There is also distrust and rejection by some sectors about the measures implemented, and controversy about the need to or not to include certain species in the list.
In addition, the public, management and other key groups have a difference of understanding of the threats.
The Life Invasaqua project was created to solve the shortfall of information regarding the problem and in response to the need for continuous training, which generates synergies with those responsible for the management of invasive alien species.
Mitigation, awareness, control, information and prevention
Prevention is seen as the most useful tool, followed by early detection, rapid response, control and eradication.
Life Invasaqua is an Iberian project, which is funded by the European Union’s Life program.
It is focused on information and training, but also management and governance.
Life Invasaqua works on the development and continuous review of lists of invasive alien species in the Iberian Peninsula, of those that are already established and those that can potentially arrive.
Sport fishing, professional fishing, exotic pets, aquariums, fish farm discharges, water transfers, water sports, maritime and river transport, commercial interests… There are many vectors of entry for invasive alien species in aquatic environments. Some are intentional, while others are unknown or through negligence. Life Invasaqua will analyze in detail all routes of entry.
But the complexity of aquatic environments requires the involvement of the implicated sectors. For this reason, the project will work hand in hand with the different stakeholders and with the general public.
The rules, plans and management are in place. But we must raise awareness about this issue. Our challenge is to inform so we can better understand the problem.
LIFE INVASAQUA (LIFE17 GIE / ES / 000515), FINANCED BY THE LIFE PROGRAM, SEEKS TO REDUCE THE INTRODUCTION AND SPREAD OF INVASIVE ALIEN SPECIES (IAS) IN THE IBERIAN PENINSULA BY INCREASING PUBLIC AND STAKEHOLDER AWARENESS THROUGH INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION AND TRAINING CAMPAIGNS, AND DEVELOPING KEY TOOLS TO IMPROVE AN EARLY WARNING AND RAPID RESPONSE (EWRR) FRAMEWORK FOR NEW IAS IN FRESHWATER AND ESTUARINE HABITATS.
Life Invasaqua is coordinated by the Universidad de Murcia and eight partners: EFEverde of the Agencia EFE, UICN-Med, Museo de Ciencias Naturales-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Sociedad Ibérica de Ictiología (SIBIC), Universidad de Navarra, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Universidad de Évora y Associaçao Portuguesa de Educaçao Ambiental (ASPEA)