Invasive Alien Species - Europe and Central Asia
Invasive alien species are species whose introduction and/or spread outside their natural distribution threatens biological diversity. Although not every non-native species causes problems, many do and the impact is severe.
Alien Species are organisms introduced outside their natural habitat. Half of all biodiversity is the result of an independent evolution of species in different regions in their different climatic conditions. Biodiversity is maintained thanks to natural barriers, such as oceans, mountains and deserts, preventing different ecosystems from different regions from mixing. When we import a species into a region it does not belong to we break down the natural barriers and put biodiversity in danger.
Alien species are one of the principal causes of biodiversity loss; they have been partly or wholly responsible for the extinction of at least 68 bird species over the last 500 years. Alien species eat native species, compete with them for resources such as food, hybridize with them, disrupt and destroy their habitats or weaken and kill them by introducing pathogens, parasites and diseases and their environment. More than 10,000 alien species have gained a foothold in Europe, from Asian tiger mosquitoes to North American ragweed, and at least 1,500 are known to be harmful. Alien species cause some 12.5 billion Euro worth of damage each year in the European Union alone.
One of the better known examples of the economic damages caused by an Invasive Alien Species is the case of the American Comb jelly fish in the Black Sea. The jelly fish arrived in the ballast water of ships from the American Atlantic coast. With no enemies in their new home, the jellies propagated at an alarming rate. The invasion contributed to the near collapse of Black Sea commercial fisheries within a few years and was a main contributor to the loss of 150 000 fishing jobs as a direct effect of the reduction of anchovies.
BirdLife Europe advocates for the EU to publish a proposal to tackle Invasive Alien Species. In order to raise EU decision makers’ awareness on the issue and its costs, we have organised several events, including one together with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). We have also produced an information leaflet on invasive alien species stating the issue and our recommendations for an effective and sustainable EU legislation.
Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.