Determinants of data deficiency in the impacts of alien bird species

Working with scientists at UCL and Stellenbosch University, I recently undertook a global assessment of the environmental impacts of alien birds, using the Environmental Impact Classification for Alien Taxa (EICAT). One of the important results of this assessment was that for approximately 70% of alien bird species, we have no data on their environmental impacts. These species are classified as Data Deficient (DD) under EICAT.

In order to understand more about why this is the case, we carried out a further study to identify factors that may influence whether we have impact data for alien birds. Whilst the results indicate that many species are likely to be DD because they have minor impacts that do not attract scientific research, they also suggest that some species may be DD for reasons that are unrelated to the severity of their impacts. For example, the availability of impact data was found to be strongly associated with the length of time a species had been resident as an alien, and the size of its alien range. This is important, because it suggests that some alien bird species (e.g. those introduced to new environments relatively recently, or those with restricted alien ranges) may have environmental impacts that are going unnoticed. Our study highlights the need to improve our impact prediction capabilities, in order to identify the types of DD species that are likely to have damaging impacts.

You can read the paper here.

Posted in Alien birds, Alien species, Biodiversity conservation, Biological invasions, Birds, Conservation science, Data Deficient (DD), Environmental Impact Classification For Alien Taxa (EICAT), Macroecology | Tagged | Leave a comment

Humboldt Research Fellowship

I’m pleased to say I’ve been awarded a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. From this autumn, I’ll be based at the Institute of Biology at the Free University of Berlin, working with Professor Jonathan Jeschke. I’ll be continuing my research into the impacts of alien birds, and the use of measures to quantify and categorise the impacts of alien species. More on that to follow…

Posted in Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Alien birds, Alien species, Biodiversity conservation, Biological invasions, Birds, Conservation science, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers | Leave a comment

Using EICAT to quantify and categorise the environmental impacts of alien birds

Thousands of species have been moved by people to areas where they do not naturally occur. These alien species can have negative impacts on the environments into which they are introduced. Given the vast number of aliens, and the broad range of impacts they can have, how do we identify which are the worst in order to prioritise our remedial or preventative actions? One method that shows a lot of promise is the Environmental Impact Classification for Alien Taxa (EICAT). This is a new protocol that has been developed to enable invasion biologists to identify and categorise the magnitude and types of impacts associated with alien taxa, and in so doing, allow clear comparisons to be made regarding the impacts of alien species across different regions and taxonomic groups.

It is possible that EICAT will be formally adopted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as their formal mechanism for classifying the impacts of alien species. If this happens, EICAT assessments for all known alien species worldwide should be completed and peer reviewed by 2020, in-line with the requirements stipulated under Aichi Target 9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Target 5 of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.

As EICAT is a new protocol, a key step in its development is to apply it to a set of species with alien populations, in order to test how readily it can be used, and to identify any aspects of the protocol that may need refinement. To do this, I recently carried out a global assessment of the environmental impacts of alien birds using EICAT, in collaboration with invasion biologists based at UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER) and the Stellenbosch University DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology

Under EICAT, alien birds were categorised by the severity and type of their environmental impacts. In terms of impact severity, most species impacts were categorised as either Minimal Concern (MC) or Minor (MN), although 37 had moderate (MO) impacts or above, causing declines in the populations of native species. With regard to impact type, alien birds were primarily found to impact upon the environment through competition, predation, hybridisation and frugivory (spreading the seeds of alien plants). However, impact data were found for only around 30% of alien bird species worldwide, with the rest categorised as Data Deficient (DD).

The study demonstrates that EICAT can be used to quantify and categorise the impacts of alien species for a complete taxonomic class. However, it also indicates that there is much to learn about the impacts of aliens, as we have no information on the environmental impacts of most species, even in a well-studied group like birds. This is perhaps one of the key benefits of EICAT – by facilitating a global stocktake of the impacts of alien taxa, EICAT directs attention not only to the most damaging alien species, but also to those species, locations or impact mechanisms for which we do not have sufficient information in order to manage the impacts of alien species.

Click here to access the paper.

Posted in Alien birds, Alien species, Biodiversity conservation, Biological invasions, Birds, Conservation science, Data Deficient (DD), Environmental Impact Classification For Alien Taxa (EICAT) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Invasive alien species, EICAT and the IUCN

In March 2016, I attended a workshop at the Institute of Botany in Průhonice in the Czech Republic, to discuss the implementation of a new methodology to quantify and categorise the impacts of alien species, known as the Environmental Impact Classification for Alien Taxa (EICAT). The workshop was planned and facilitated by Tim Blackburn, Professor of Invasion Biology at UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER). Attendees included invasion biologists and environmental scientists from 8 countries, along with the Chair of the IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), Dr Piero Genovesi.

Over two days, we discussed the processes required to further develop and implement EICAT, and reviewed the results of provisional EICAT assessments undertaken for a range of taxa, including all known alien bird and amphibian species. A motion for the formal adoption of EICAT by the IUCN will be debated at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2016, and the group also assessed the procedures and timetable for taking the motion forward. Assuming that the motion is passed, it is hoped that EICAT assessments will be completed and peer reviewed for all alien species worldwide by around 2020, and will be published online via the IUCN Global Invasive Species Database (GISD). In so doing, EICAT and the IUCN will provide the most comprehensive source of information on the environmental impacts of alien species globally.

Further details on EICAT can be found here.

The workshop was funded by the EU through COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), under Action TD1209: ALIEN Challenge. COST provides a framework for the support of trans-national research amongst research scientists. ALIEN Challenge aims to facilitate knowledge gathering and information sharing to improve decision-making regarding the identification and management of impacts associated with alien species. We would like to thank Dr Helen Roy, Chair of COST Action TD1209: ALIEN Challenge, for funding this workshop, which has been extremely useful in the development of EICAT.

Group photo

Posted in Alien species, Biodiversity conservation, Conservation science, Environmental Impact Classification For Alien Taxa (EICAT) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment