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New Professor in Invasion biology: “Master plan against invasive alien species is urgent ”

07 September 2017 — 07 August 2017 Radboud University

The Netherlands is the European champion on rankings of established invasive alien species (IAS). Without far reaching measures, the spread and harmful effects of invasive species will only increase, Nijmegen invasion biologist Rob Leuven states in his inaugural lecture titled ‘Over grenzen van soorten’ (‘Species beyond borders’) at Radboud University on 7 September 2017.

Examples of damage and costs caused by invasive alien species. Rob Leuven, Radboud UniversityDue to climate change and increasing globalisation in trade and transport, there is a rapid increase in the number and spread of harmful alien species in The Netherlands. On top of that, the difficulties and high costs of eradication or control of these problematic species stresses the need for (inter)national, regional and local coordination of management strategies, says Rob Leuven.

“A master plan is required to combat the increasing societal costs, risks to public health, and adverse environmental effects caused by these invasive species”, says the first ever Professor in Invasion biology at a Dutch university.

National list of harmful alien species

The core of Rob Leuven’s plan is to adopt a national list of invasive alien species that pose a risk to biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, the environment, the economy, and/or public health. A European regulation on prevention and management of invasive species already exist, but this ‘Union list’ of species of EU concern does not (yet) require the eradication or control of many invasive species currently occurring in the Netherlands. These species are, for example, indigenous in other EU member states, like the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) and killer shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus), or they only cause ecological harm in our country or few member states, like the Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis, photo). To eradicate or control these species, it will be necessary to compile a national list of invasive alien species to complement the existing Union list of 49 invasive species of EU concern.

‘Free of alien species’ statement

Leuven advocates the introduction of a nationally mandatory ‘free of alien species’ statement for soil displacements, land transactions and the use of land management machines. This will limit the rapid and increasing spread of species like the Asian knotweeds, green cabomba and the floating pennywort. Above all, he recommends all municipalities and water managers, together with (private) land owners to draw up area-specific plans for dealing with harmful alien species.

“Citizen science and participatory environmental management should also be promoted, as both can reduce the costs of monitoring and managing alien species”, Leuven adds. “However, this will require sufficient resources to finance professional coordination, education, and the guidance of volunteers, for example. Moreover, it will require an expansion of governmental funding available for scientific research and education concerning risks and management of invasive alien species. Biological invasions offer excellent opportunities to research, among other things, mechanisms of fast evolutionary adaptation of species but also cost-effective management measures. Such knowledge is not only scientifically relevant, but also urgently needed to develop innovative strategies to mitigate effects and to reduce management costs of invasive alien species.”

Attached files

  • Asian knotweeds - photo Rob Leuven, Radboud University.jpg

  • Chinese mystery snail - photo Frank Collas, Radboud University.jpg

  • Asian knotweeds - photo Rob Leuven, Radboud University.jpg

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