The EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation highlights the benefits of preventing the spread of invasive alien species (IAS) in terms of biodiversity and cost. Increased public awareness and effective early warning systems and management are essential to this task. In Italy, there is a need for more public awareness of the problem, in particular of the role of the pet and ornamental plants trade, and more complete data about the rates of introduction and impacts of IAS.
The LIFE ASAP project sought to limit the spread and impact of IAS in Italy through public awareness and participation. The project's specific objectives were:
- To translate into Italian the European voluntary codes of conduct and guidelines for managing IAS and circulate this material to key stakeholder groups that can help prevent the spread of IAS (e.g. florists, horticulturists, landscape architects, pet shops, aquarists, anglers and hunters);
- To train personnel from public administrations in how to support the implementation of the new EU Regulation on IAS;
- To draft a national IAS blacklist in collaboration with the Italian scientific community and propose a set of priorities for the Italian government; and
- To train knowledge multipliers (teachers, conservation professionals, zoos, botanical gardens) about IAS and with their input to develop an information campaign focused on schools and the general public. The awareness campaign will make use of a range of media channels, including information displays in zoos, botanical gardens, national parks and airports, online activities (social media, website etc.) and citizen science activities using apps.
The LIFE ASAP project increased awareness among target audiences and the general public of the problems presented by invasive alien species and promoted good practices. It contributed to the application of the EU Regulation 1143/2014 and its adoption in Italy by law decree no. 230/2017 of 14 February, 2018. The project held 12 training sessions targeting employees at parks, zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens. A total of 559 participants were reached, higher than the 89 foreseen. It also held 15 training courses for public sector employees, engaging 560 officials from 94 public administrations. Additionally, 432 personnel of public administrations took part in e-learning training sessions.
Another key outcome of the project was the involvement of 82 scientists in the drafting of a national black list of IAS. A summary document of the first proposals was presented to the Italian government. The project produced other significant documents, such as the Italian translation of seven European Codes of Conduct on angling, pleasure boating, hunting, pets, zoos and aquariums, botanical gardens and floriculture/nursery gardening. Furthermore, it drew up guidelines for the application of the EU Regulation 1143/2014 and of the law 230/1, national guidelines for the management of IAS in protected areas and technical guidelines for professionals. Following the publication of the national decree 230/20017, the project held 24 training sessions for 1 651 professionals (more than the foreseen 500), 450 economic operators (more than the foreseen 200), and 293 green designers (50 expected). 54 professionals signed the Codes of Conduct produced by the project.
The project carried out an information campaign in the targeted protected areas, hosting workshops (63 participants) and training days (96 participants). Educational activities reached 682 students. The Lazio region, the Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago Toscano and some regional parks adopted the project’s guidelines for the management of IAS in the protected areas. The campaign also targeted anglers, engaging 584, and hunters, reaching 534, with several associations signing up to a memorandum of understanding. Furthermore, 42 botanical gardens adopted the project’s codes of conduct, while in cooperation with the stakeholders, an alternative gardening brochure was produced.
Finally, the project initiated a successful citizen science campaign, holding 12 recruitment days, seven seminars and a remote course. More than 1,000 people took part in 12 ‘bioblitzes’ across Italy to gather information and improve understanding of IAS. An information campaign took place at the airport of Fiumicino outside Rome, reaching 3 871 passengers from 96 countries, with 1 018 people receiving training.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).