The following is a widely accepted definition of an Invasive Alien Species (IAS): "Invasive alien animals, plants and other pathogens introduced by Man (accidentally or deliberately) to a non-native ecosystem, whose propagation leads to serious negative ecological, economic or health consequences for their new environment," (UICN 2000, McNeely et al. 2001, McNeely 2001). Another valid definition is that of the European strategy on invasive alien species: "A species, subspecies or lower taxon introduced outside its natural past or present distribution, whose introduction and/or spread threatens biological diversity. This may include any part: gametes, seeds, eggs, or propagules of such species that might survive and subsequently reproduce," (Genovesi & Shine, 2003).
Known to be one of the main reporting causes of global diversity loss, IAS are on the forefront of important measures, such as those of the the European Union. On a national level, the emerging issue of IAS is taken into account by the National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) of the French Ministry of Ecology, and corresponds to a serious commitment to the Grenelle Environmental Forum (Art. 23 of the Grenelle Law of 3 August 2009). The focus is set on the damages to biodiversity. In addition, the French Ministry of Ecology is currently preparing a national strategy project dedicated to IAS.
The project relies on various institutions, such as the French National Museum of Natural History, the French National Hunting and Wildlife Agency (ONCFS) or the French National Agency for Water and Aquatic Environments (ONEMA) for wildlife related activities, and on the French Federation of National Botanical Conservatories (FCBN) or the French National Forests Office (ONF) for flora related activities. Concerning French overseas departments, the IUCN French committee has developed an initiative pertaining to ultramarine invasive alien species.
Rattus norvegicus (Berkenhout, 1769) © Libre de droits & Lithobates catesbeianus (Shaw, 1802) © F.Serre Collet
A major axis of this approach includes the national mobilization of experts. The network for wildlife experts was set up and is run by the French Natural Heritage Service (MNHN) and the French Federation of National Botanical Conservatories for Flora. The scientific experts involved in this network provide thoughts and opinions on issues relating to the project's theme: IAS (report on the definitionsand regulations).
The goal is to set up a surveillance network, consistent over the entire national territory and in line with European Union regulations.
Major national surveillance activities include detection and monitoring efforts. Identifying invaders rapidly and tracking introduced or invasive species populations is essential for making the appropriate decisions (management, control, etc.). Several elements must first be analyzed before setting up this surveillance network:
Upon request from the French Ministry of Ecology, the MNHN has committed to structuring this surveillance network, together with the French Federation of National Botanical Conservatoires (FCBN) and other institutional partners.
The use of participatory science programs is a particularly efficient means to monitor species in their natural environment. The INPN integrates data resulting from these programs, including data related to invasive wildlife species. Observational data is collected by the different parties involved (the general public, naturalists, researchers, etc.), and is readily available to the public via the departmental map of France, accessible on the species' presentation page (example: Asian hornet or flatworms).
Another challenge in limiting the impact of invasive species on biodiversity is coordinating national efforts into management plans. These plans are outlined as a two-stage process: a writing stage (knowledge assessment, medium and long term strategy plan, list of actions) and an implementation stage (setting a timeline for the plan and appointing a steering committee). A current example of a national wildlife conservation plan concerns the Red-bellied squirrel Callosciurus erythraeus (Pallas, 1779) ; two other plans concern the Ruddy duck and the African sacred ibis.
In order to prioritize the invasive species animals that are to be dealt with at the request of the French Ministry of Ecology, the MNHN, in conjunction with the network of national wildlife experts, has formulated a ranking methodology for introduced species in metropolitan France. The list of introduced vertebrates, for which an "invasiveness" assessment will be made, can be found here .
Bombina bombina (Linnaeus, 1761) © F.Serre Collet & Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum, 1792) © D.Martiré