Final Report Summary - INSPECTED.NET (INvasive SPecies Evaluation, ConTrol & EDucation.NETwork)
Invasive Alien Species (IAS) increased rapidly during this century with extensive environmental effects on invaded habitats, human activities, and health, causing serious economic damage to agriculture and forestry. Accordingly, the European Commission (EC) devised a strategy against IAS, particularly aiming at plants, as a priority in the Horizon2020. However, the processes of biological invasions, their impacts on native ecosystems on different temporal and spatial scales, and the invasibility of different ecosystems are still not well understood. From 2012 until 2016 the Marie Curie's International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) under the 7th EU framework programme (FP7) funded the international and multidisciplinary exchange project INvasive SPecies Evaluation, ConTrol & INSPECTED.NET. This project, a cooperation between the Universities of Münster (Germany), Freiburg (Germany), Lisbon (Portugal), and Viçosa (Brazil) focused on the biological invasion of Acacia plant species in Portugal and Brasil. Acacia spp. (e.g. Acacia longifolia, Acacia mangium, Acacia dealbata) are among the most aggressive invading plant species, with strong negative effects in Portuguese und Brazilian ecosystems. The impacts on ecosystem functioning include alterations of the nitrogen cycle, water balance, carbon assimilation, vegetation and plant community structure, plant diversity, litter density, soil N content and C/N ratio, and the seed bank. To understand these impacts on Portuguese und Brazilian ecosystems our multi-skilled, international group of experts in biological invasions applied the latest methods in vegetation ecology. The investigation sites are located in dune ecosystems in Portugal and Mussununga ecosystems in Brasil. Mussununga is a non-forest ecosystem associated with Atlantic Rainforests occurring in southern Bahia and northern Espirito Santo states that is characterized by sandy substrate with restricted soil depth due to an impermeable thick subsoil (called Ortstein) layer. The typical vegetation forms range from grasslands up to woodlands. The international multiscale and interdisciplinary approach of INSPECTED.NET is the first of its kind concerning highly invasive species of the Genus Acacia. The knowledge generated by the research group will help to increase the understanding of invasive plant species, their effects on the biodiversity and support the development of further management strategies. Overall, the scientific challenges and opportunities required a European approach and INSPECTED.NET is of high relevance for the European Research Area: This project contributes to a sustainable collaboration of leading institutes in the scientific domain of invasion biology. Further, the project is understood as the first step towards a long-term common effort between the participants, including better access to study sites, laboratories, archives (remote sensing data, ecological studies, management experience) and expert networks for the European beneficiaries such as the EC funded project DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species In Europe: www.europealiens.org). Future efforts will include conceptual issues but also focuses on the relevance of research to guide management and decision-making, the gaps between scientific publications and access to managers, the issues of language, and the relevance of conducting research with a notion of its potential application to management (considering local context, costs, and access to information).