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Will Europe at last unite to combat thousands of alien invaders?
Date:4/3/2009

This release is available in German.

Europe's borders have been breached by thousands of plants and animal species from other parts of the world: from the American mink to the New Zealand flatworm. The invaders feed on, hybridise with, parasitise and out-compete native species. They also introduce diseases, alter the balance within ecosystems, modify landscapes and impact upon agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Preliminary estimates indicate that the monetary cost of these invasive alien species in Europe amounts to at least 10 billion per year, yet for 90% of species almost nothing is known of their impacts.

Recent evidence that Europe may be home to 11,000 alien species has spurred the European Commission to release its first ever Communication on invasive species. The European Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, noted at the launch of the Communication that "the ecological, economic and social consequences of the spread of invasive species for EU countries are serious and need a harmonised response".

The Communication, which is currently open for consultation, proposes the development of a European Strategy on Invasive Species. It outlines three potential ways forward, each representing a different level of legislative cost and complexity. The first, and least complex, involves making better use of existing legislation; the second would adapt existing legislation to address invasive species, while the third, and most complex, would develop a dedicated legal instrument. But is this the best way forward?

A recent paper published in the journal Science1 suggests legislation is only part of the answer and that what Europe lacks is appropriate governance and institutional coordination across Member States to tackle the problem of invasions effectively.

"Currently, responsibility for invasive species management sits with
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
press@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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