The introduction of invasive alien species (IAS) is a leading cause of species endangerment and extinction in freshwater systems. IAS cost the EU approximately €12 billion per year, with damage costs continuing to increase. In 2014, the EU passed an ambitious legislative framework on IAS regulation which, if implemented and executed, could be a crucial step towards reaching the targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
The rivers, lakes and estuaries of Spain and Portugal have an endemic rich diversity which is seriously threatened by the presence of a high number of IAS. Among the main reasons for the spread of these species are recreational fisheries, water drainage transfers and ornamental activities, all of which are important economically. However, there is a limited understanding of the threats posed by alien species in aquatic ecosystems. This lack of awareness among the Spanish and Portuguese public hampers any management policies that public administrations and other stakeholders propose, particularly for IAS that do not affect human health or major economic interests. Furthermore, IAS control is frequently considered a limitation to economic development.
LIFE INVASAQUA seeks to reduce the introduction and spread of invasive alien species in the Iberian Peninsula by increasing public and stakeholder awareness, and developing key tools to improve an early warning and rapid response (EWRR) framework for new IAS in freshwater and estuarine habitats. This will involve creating synergies between scientists, NGOs and decision-makers, training key target groups (river and estuary workers and users, teachers, students, etc.) to enable early warning of and rapid response to aquatic IAS. Public awareness of the threat these species pose will be raised through a far-reaching communication campaign.
The project will support the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 and the EU Regulation on the prevention and management of IAS.