Scientists from Spain and Portugal have identified for the first time the 272 potentially invasive species in inland waters of both countries, which will allow the implementation of early warning and eradication systems to avoid ecological and economic damage.
The species have just been collected in the publication “List of potentially invasive alien species in the Iberian Peninsula 2020”, available on the website of the European Life Invasaqua project, the promoter of this research.
The Amur sleeper fish, marble crab, Carolina water nettle, the northern snakehead fish or the cane toad are some of these 272 species that are already invasive in other countries and have caused considerable damage.
These specimens “They are already in the stage of transport or introduction in the Iberian Peninsula and they must be taken into account in the early warning systems of Spain and Portugal ”, points out Francisco José Oliva, professor of Zoology at the University of Murcia, coordinator of the Life Invasaqua project and one of the authors of the study.
In most cases, these species are arriving to the Peninsula as pets or through aquaculture, says Oliva.
The list, the result of a systematic evaluation process and the consensus of 60 experts from more than 30 different institutions in Spain and Portugal, aims to be the basis for prevention and early warning by the Administrations in both countries, as well as to promote transnational cooperation in this matter.
At the same time, Life Invasaqua also publishes the “List of aquatic exotic species of the Iberian Peninsula 2020”, result of the work of the aforementioned group of experts.
The publication identifies a total of 306 species introduced in the continental waters of the peninsula, of which 200 are “clearly already established or naturalized” in freshwater aquatic systems and estuaries of the Iberian Peninsula, which implies “a very high risk for the environment and the economy,” emphasizes Oliva.
Experts have verified that of these 306 invasive species only a percentage lower than 40% is within the European catalog or that of the nationals of Spain or Portugal, which implies that the possession or commercialization of those not included is still allowed.
The groups most represented in these 306 species are vertebrates, crustaceans and mollusks, although the exotic aquatic plants are also considerable in number.
These groups make up more than 70% of the established species.
In addition to the most emblematic invasive species such as the American mink, the catfish, the zebra mussel or the camalote, this list also includes other lesser known specimens but with a notable problem such as the coypu, the African clawed frog, the percasol, the signal crab, the Asian river clam or the azolla.
Recent studies show that there is an accelerated increase in the entry of new alien species on the European continent and, consequently, also in Spain and Portugal, as well as their associated ecological and economic problems.
The identification of exotic species present or potentially present in a country constitutes part of the basis of early detection and rapid response measures, hence Life Invasaqua has focused on the preparation and publication of these technical lists, which are a essential tool for technicians and managers.
“These lists are instruments for understanding and managing the pathways of introduction of exotic species into freshwater and estuarine systems, as well as for communicating the magnitude of the problem to all related authorities and interest groups,” he asserts. Spyridon Flevaris, responsible of Biodiversity Policies of the European Commission.
These two publications will serve as the basis for monitoring compliance with the EU Biodiversity Strategy target until 2030 to combat invasive alien species (IAS), and for the implementation of other European directives (Habitats and Birds, Water and Marine Strategy).