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An integrated solution for fighting invasive alien species

EU-funded researchers are building a biodiversity information network to help scientists properly tackle the threat posed by invasive alien species.

The importance of open data in the identification and control of invasive alien species was highlighted recently in a study by the EU-funded EU BON project. The report, published in the online Management of Biological Invasions journal, stressed the importance of enabling scientists to better predict the causes, routes and progression of these invasions. Invasive alien species are animals and plants that have been introduced accidently or deliberately into a natural environment where they are not normally found, with often serious negative consequences for their new environment. Across Europe, these species range from fungi and molluscs to grey squirrels and the common raccoon. They represent a major threat to native plants and animals, and can cause damage worth millions of euros every year. The EU BON study noted that a lack of freely available data has hampered scientific endeavours to identify and control invasive species. In order to address this, the project plans to establish an open data resource covering extensive areas for many species over a long time period. This network will form a substantial part of the Group on Earth Observation’s Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON). This will connect biodiversity scientists from around the world and provide them with instant access to data, analysis and expertise. Open data is the idea that certain information should be freely available to use and republish – without copyright or patent restrictions – providing scientists with the information necessary to tackle this ongoing and ever-changing challenge. EU BON’s 30 partners from 18 countries will build on existing networks, structures and data centres, and integrate information systems ranging from on-the-ground sensors to satellite data. The project will also develop new data standards and integration techniques, along with harmonised data collection and new approaches for future biodiversity monitoring and assessment. Practical indicators and interpretation tools for end users to identify alien invasive species – those involved in agriculture and nature conservation for example – will also be created. The project, which will receive a total of EUR 9 million in EU funding, began in December 2012 by assessing the current situation with regards to biodiversity information sharing. The team found that restrictive data licensing was blocking users, while many software systems did not adequately support information sharing. Furthermore, data secrecy has often been the default position for many organisations, though attitudes towards open access are changing. The project also found that Europe’s biodiversity scientific community was highly fragmented. Current biodiversity observation systems and environmental datasets are unbalanced in their coverage and not integrated, which limits the effective implementation of environmental policies. The creation of a truly European biodiversity network will therefore help improve communication and enable rapid action in the fight against new invasive species. It will also provide an important component in an integrated global response. The project is due for completion in May 2017. For further information please visit: EU BON http://eubon.eu/

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