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AQUAINVAD-ED Report Summary

Project ID: 642197
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AQUAINVAD-ED (AQUAtic INVAders: Early Detection, Control and Management)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2017-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Recent research has shown that Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) are on the rise due to the synergistic effects of climate change and habitat destruction. The impacts of AIS on biodiversity, human health, and loss of ecosystem services (food, tourism and water provision) have long been known, but their control and management has now become a worldwide priority. Successful management of AIS is challenging because it requires several steps in succession: (1) early detection, (2) identification of routes of introduction and pathways of dispersal, and (3) development of efficient control measures. However, public awareness and stakeholder involvement is also critical for preventing new introductions and for mitigating the impact of existing ones. The main research goal of AQUAINVAD-ED is to exploit novel molecular advances combined with the power of crowd data sourcing (citizen science) to develop innovative methods of early detection, control and management of AIS. This will be achieved via a multi-disciplinary network of experts in invasion biology, ecology, marine and fresh water biotechnology, citizen science and environmental policy working in three different countries. The consortium has a strong inter-sectoral dimension and includes scientists and professionals from 3 universities, 1 technological institute, 2 government agencies, 1 NGO and 5 SMEs working in fundamental and applied aspects of AIS.

AQUAINVAD-ED will catalyse research and commercial activity in the detection and management of aquatic invasive species, as well as in the implementation of codes of good practice for the European industry and Government agencies. This will be achieved by training the next generation of researchers on the principles of invasion biology, providing them with the tools and knowledge required to detect and quantify the ecological and socio-economic impacts of invasive species and the skills necessary to communicate science to the general public, across disciplines and sectorial boundaries. The training program will be delivered through individual research projects, active participation in network activities and a unique combination of specialised courses, designed to increase the employability of graduates in the consultancy sector, government, academia, and the water industry. The active involvement of academic and non-academic partners in all the activities of the AQUAINVAD-ED
network provides a cross-sectorial programme of research–led training on aquatic invasive species, a topic of increasing importance that fulfils an important need for Europe.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Literature reviews were carried out at the beginning of the project by all the ESRs on the different topics of their projects, which included the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for early detection of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) in ballast water and fresh water environments, methods of control and management of AIS as well as their impacts.

Protocols have been optimised to use eDNA and metabarcoding in the detection of AIS in different types of fresh water masses and the role of connectivity in their dispersal (ESR1). DNA and RNA metabarcoding are being used too to identify AIS in ballast water with views to implement it for routine monitoring (ESR5). From this work one methodological paper is close to submission (ESR1) and one review has been submitted and is currently in revision (ESR5).

In terms of AIS dispersal, Species Distribution Models are being developed by ESR2 to identify the main vectors of introduction and dispersal, using UK initially as a testing area for the models. A paper on this topic is close to be submitted. On a related topic, ESR 6 is carrying out a number of practical experiments to look at the role of marine litter as a vector of dispersal of AIS, using the Cantabrian coast initially to develop the sampling and analyses strategies. One paper has already been produced from this work. ESR3 is looking at AIS interactions and potential synergies as a way to measure impact and potentially develop methods for control of AIS. One manuscript with the first results for zebra mussel and killer shrimp is well advanced and ready for submission. Also in terms of control and management, ESR 4 is collaborating in sampling of invasive crayfish and testing the potential of male sterilisation for their control. ESR4 is also participating in catfish eradication using electrofishing and in modelling of species distribution at large scale. Several publications are in preparation from this work. ESR7 is using a practical approach to look at impacts of invasive crayfish, in particular as a consequence of their burrowing strategies, as well as looking at the impacts of the American bullfrog and the catfish in the native food networks. One manuscript has already been submitted and several are in preparation from this work. ESR 8 is focusing on the identification, distribution and adaptation to climate change of invasive seaweed, starting with the widely invasive Codium fragile, for which different experiments on morphology, physiology and genetics are in progress, the results being currently analysed for publication. A number of projects include an area of citizen science and dissemination that are detailed below.

In addition, all ESRs have participated in 2 AQUAINVAD-ED -specific training events (on communication, dissemination and citizen science), will be taking part in an additional bespoke training course on methods for early detection of AIS and have participated in their institution specific training courses. ESRs have participated in a number of conferences and a multi-authored paper has been produced by the consortium summarising the project.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

A number of projects include a citizen science aspect (including those from ESRs 2, 6 and 8). This is translating in a number of events which have involved the general public (including the 1st project meeting in the UK, jointly hosted by the Wye and Usk Foundation which included an event related to the World Migration Day). These events are serving to increase public awareness of the problems related to Biological Invasions, to collect data through questionnaires about public perception of AIS and to start developing citizen science programmes e.g. collaborating in the eradication of AIS in beaches and rivers and in the collection of samples for further analyses and helping in beach cleaning and collecting biota attached to marine litter.

Given the broad spectrum of projects and wide geographical coverage, AQAUINVAD-ED is tacking for the first time all aspects of invasion, from early detection to impacts, measures of control and prediction of dispersal, making it unique in terms of scientific and public relevance.

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