Scientific focus

Invasive Alien Species (IAS) pose a major threat to biodiversity, society, well-being and the economy. Initiatives to collate information on IAS (and more broadly AS) have resulted in the development of many databases differing in their geographic, taxonomic and ecological coverage. Despite the importance of the information provided by such databases, there are a number of constraints that might limit their effective use, such as lack of interoperability and uncertainties for long-term sustainability of these databases and information management tools. This COST Action will address such issues by establishing a comprehensive network of experts in order to facilitate development of a European information system for AS. This will support development early warning and rapid response protocols through standards and information management procedures at different levels (i.e. national, regional and European) contributing to the implementation of EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. 

The COST Action will take into account the 2008 Commission Communication towards a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS). SEIS is a collaborative initiative of the European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA) to establish together with the Member States an integrated and shared European environmental information system. Indeed, SEIS aims to improve the collection, exchange and use of environmental data and information and is based on seven principles: 1. Managed as close as possible to its source; 2. Collected once, and shared with others for many purposes; 3. Readily available to easily fulfill reporting obligations; 4. Easily accessible to all users; 5. Accessible to enable comparisons at the appropriate geographical scale, and citizen participation; 6. Fully available to the general public, and at the national level in the relevant national language(s); 7. Supported through common, free open software standards. The application of the principles of SEIS is becoming increasingly relevant for, and perhaps even necessary elements of, any network which is based on information sharing, and as such it is of fundamental importance to verify whether and how such principles can be applied to the IAS data sources which represent the focus of this project. 

In collaboration with a newly established European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) initiative, European Alien Species Information Network EASIN (http://easin.jrc.ec.europa.eu/) this COST Action will aim to establish a network of experts to contribute to Early Warning and Rapid Response Systems by developing standards and information management procedures at different levels (i.e. national, regional and European). The COST Action will ensure formation of an extensive and active network, already comprising 90 international professionals from many organizations and disciplines, to underpin early warning and rapid response. The COST Action will specifically further harmonise the information in existing AS databases within Europe, explore undiscovered sources of information, and identify the needs and formats for alien species information by different user groups. Additionally this COST Action will look to interact with Map of Life (www.mappinglife.org), Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), BioFresh (www.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/) and GEO BON http://www.earthobservations.org/geobon.shtml). 

The COST Action framework would provide participants and other interested experts with an infrastructure in which to share information and expertise on AS. Collaboration with EASIN will provide the platform for delivering protocols developed through the COST Action. The aim of EASIN is to increase the access to data and information on alien species in Europe. EASIN facilitates the exploration of existing AS information from distributed resources through a network of interoperable web services, following internationally recognized standards and protocols. The network of this COST will collaborate with the EASIN team for promoting and contributing to the harmonisation of existing information sources as part of an effort to improve the exchange of AS information. The access to AS information is made available free of charge to anyone who wants to use it, but ownership of the data remains with the source. This COST Action will provide the network of experts to support EASIN specifically within the context of early warning and rapid response.