Why should we be concerned about invasive species?

We are currently experiencing a critical situation with regard to invasive alien species. These species are those that have arrived in a region outside their natural distribution area due to human causes. Many of them, entering a foreign habitat, are unable to adapt and cannot establish themselves. Unfortunately, some do become established, and They can cause negative impacts on ecosystems, causing irreparable damage.

In Europe, we can say that we know the causes of these negative impacts, but we need greater knowledge about the magnitude for their proper management, that is, we need to measure and quantify in more detail where and how impacts occur and the response of native species.

There are ecosystems that are especially sensitive, such as aquatic ones (rivers, lakes, lagoons, estuaries, etc.), whose conservation and that of the native species that inhabit them are in decline due to human activity, and at a faster rate. accelerated than in any other ecosystem. Aquatic ecosystems, especially freshwater ones, are among “the most invaded on the planet by invasive species” and much of the loss of its biodiversity is associated with the presence of these species. For this reason, the Life Invasaqua project, financed by the European Life programme, has as its main objective to support communication, training and the dissemination of information on aquatic invasive alien species in Spain and Portugal.

The main message that is intended to be transmitted to citizens through the project is that the problem affects us all, and that it is important to know and know what we can do to prevent or minimize these impacts. Invasive species have significant adverse effects on biodiversity, such as the extinction of native species. Its impacts can also cause socio-economic problems, such as damage to crops, fisheries and infrastructure. Furthermore, according to numerous studies, both the decrease in biodiversity and the appearance of some invasive species favor the transmission of diseases to humans.

How have these species come to our environment?

Various routes of introduction have been identified. In some cases they have been intentionally released, as is the case with rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and then fish it. In other cases they are introduced when they come as pets that end up being released or escape and settle in place; A clear case is that of the Argentine parrots (Myiopsitta monachus), a highly commercialized exotic species that already lives in the main cities of Europe, or the Florida tortoise (Trachemys scripta). In the case of other species, they are accidentally introduced or spread, such as the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), which entered with the ballast water of ships (the water used by ships to compensate for the balance and distribution of loads for safe navigation, which travel and are discharged thousands of kilometers within them). And we not only find animal species among the invasive exotics that are already in our country. The water hyacinth or camalote (Eichhornia crassipes) causes havoc and millionaire economic costs in some of our basins.

The Life Ivasaqua project seeks to increase awareness of them and their impacts while develop tools for early detection and rapid response to prevent spread to other locations. To do this, it seeks to increase public awareness and train the sectors involved (public administrations, private companies, citizens…).

Citizen science plays a fundamental role in the prevention and management of invasive alien species. That is why, within the framework of this project, the Mediterranean Cooperation Center of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has been organizing in several different regions of the Iberian Peninsula ‘bioblitzes’, participatory citizen science events with the aim of recording as many species (in this case invasive) as possible in a given place and time.

These citizen science events take advantage of the advances in recent years in information technology and social networks to turn citizens into allies, involving them in the collection and unification of potentially relevant information for managers and scientists that monitor the problem of these species.

Nowadays A mobile application is already working at European level to monitor the invaders, the Easin app, with which anyone can contribute their observations via mobile. In addition, within the framework of the Life Invasaqua project, the Ibermis web platform has been developed, where citizen science observations collected through the Easin application can be viewed and scientific information from the Iberian Society of Ichthyology (SIBIC) database can be accessed. ).

In addition, Ibermis offers a repository with documents, tools, guides, publications, references to regulations, training material and other types of resources aimed at educators, students, fishermen and various groups linked to the use and recreation in rivers and estuaries in order to help training, awareness and better knowledge of the problem of aquatic invasive species in the Iberian Peninsula.

On the official page of the project and social networks you can find the different activities and dates for the next events.

Anna Garcia i Rovira Environmentalist and environmental educator. Mediterranean Cooperation Center of the International Union for Conservation of Nature

This section is carried out in collaboration with the Citizen Science Observatory in Spain, coordinated by the Ibercivis Foundation

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