Europe and Central Asia
4 Jun 2013

EU legislation to tackle invasive alien species long overdue

By BirdLife Europe

Invasive alien species are one of the five main drivers of biodiversity loss globally, and yet at EU level the current approach to this problem is a patchwork of inconsistent and uneven national legislation to tackle what is by its very nature an international problem. EU legislation to tackle this problem is now long overdue.

An alien species is an organism introduced by humans outside its natural habitat. Those alien species, which cause negative impacts on biodiversity, socio economy or human health, are considered as invasive. Research funded by the European Commission has found that there are now over 12,000 alien species in Europe, at least 15% of which are thought to be invasive.

Examples of such species include the American mink, Neovison vison. According to a report published by the European Environment Agency on The Impacts of Invasive Alien Species in Europe, the American mink has displaced the native European mink and European polecat, and predates on ground nesting birds (such as Black-headed Gulls and Common Terns) and small rodents (like the European Water Vole) causing significant population declines. Invasive alien species are also responsible for significant economic costs.

In the EU, the costs were calculated to be at least €12 billion annually in 2009, and are rising with increasing global movement of people and goods. The human health impacts can also be severe. In 2012 a man was killed in France when he disturbed a nest of the invasive Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina, while many invasive alien plants and insects are responsible for life-threatening allergic reactions when humans come into contact with them.

On February 21st BirdLife and IUCN jointly ran an event in the European Parliament, “Invasive Alien Species - Biodiversity’s Ticking Time Bomb”, at which the impacts of invasive alien species and the need for EU level action were highlighted. A dedicated EU legislative instrument to address this problem is now long overdue, having been called for by the Parliament and Member States as long ago as 2009.

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. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.