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European Parliament Passes Invasive “Alien Species” Regulation

turtleThe European Parliament has passed a regulation aimed at preventing and managing the introduction and spread of invasive animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms alien to the European territory.

The regulation aims to prevent those organisms from having a negative impact, either on the environment, human health or socio-economic development.

Only 11 percent out of more than 12,000 alien species recorded in Europe have an impact on biodiversity and ecosystems, but they are considered to be second in importance as a driver of biodiversity loss and recognized as being the second largest cause of species extinction, only after habitat loss, according to Socialists and Democrats group MEP Pavel Poc, who authored the parliamentary report the regulation is based on.

The cost of invasive alien species in the EU is estimated to have been at least €12 billion ($16.6 billion) a year over the past 20 years, whereas the cost for preventing dissemination, regulation and eradication of invasive species in the EU varies from €40 million to €100 million per year, according to Poc.

There is a marked increase in the abundance of invasive species in rural areas just colonized by humans according to a study by US Geological Survey and Colorado State University researchers published in March.

They began with the idea that as people develop a rural area, their actions encourage exotic plant species to move in. People change the original habitat by introducing foreign species and spreading them throughout the area, sometimes unintentionally. These changes stress native plants, making it easier for already aggressive invaders to put down strong roots and further stress native species into a downward-spiraling cycle. This cycle increases the challenge of managing rural lands, the study says.

The authors expected that invasive species would be densest within 50-to-100 m of man-made features and drop steeply as the sample site became less disturbed. This pattern did appear in some cases. However, it was the extent of indirect human influence that most surprised the authors. Instead of finding fewer introduced plants 100 m or more from a road or well pad, they often did not see a decline until 500 or even 700 m out.

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