Friday, August 24, 2012

Why the USA is the Invasive Species Compendium’s number one user?

Hilda Diaz-Soltero, Senior USDA Invasive Species Coordinator

Japanese knotweedInvasive Species are a major problem in the United States of America (USA) as in many other countries, causing significant harm to the environment, the economy, and to animal and human health.  The negative impacts of invasives are difficult to calculate in dollars and cents in terms of their environmental damage to biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services.  However, in their damage to agriculture, forests and biodiversity, the costs of invasives in the USA are in the billions of dollars per year.

Our National Invasive Species Council coordinates actions among 45 federal agencies that use their laws, regulations, staff and funds to fight invasive species.  As of 2012, the agencies spend over US $2 billion per year in these efforts.

When the Council, led by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), collaborated with CABI to prepare an Invasive Species Compendium, we built an international consortium of 29 organizations in 12 countries to develop and finance it.

Those 29 organizations included nine US governmental organizations, each with a specific mission area, and each with different ways of using the now live Compendium.

• The USDA Agricultural Research Service is the major research arm of the US Department of Agriculture.  Access to the ISC allows scientists working on invasive species to have the most up-to-date scientific information in their hands, saving valuable time and money that will not need to be spent enquiring into the status of the science for the species through other means.  The reference section of an invasive datasheet provides instant access to the names of other scientists around the world working on the species; this facilitates networking among scientists.  The ISC provides access to the CAB abstracts of the scientific references, and when available, access to the full text of the reference.  Also, the “Gaps and research needs” section in the datasheet guides the scientist to areas where additional research is needed.

• The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service uses the data in the ISC to prepare regulations dealing with invasive species.  The new NAPPRA regulation does not approve the importation of plants in the horticultural trade until a risk analysis is done to determine if the plant can become invasive in the USA.  The information in the ISC is also used to evaluate other incoming invasives into the USA, and plan for the Early Warning or Early Detection and Rapid Response that the federal agency and the states will need to deal with that species.  The ISC information is essential as APHIS designs and conducts training for the port inspectors in the Department of Homeland Security that inspect all commodities in trade entering over 375 US ports and airports.  Furthermore, the information in the ISC is used in species risk assessments by the agency to determine further Early Detection Rapid Response actions or regulations to deal with that invasive species.

• The Foreign Agricultural Service sees the value in the ISC as a key source of information to help US farmers and businesses minimize the presence of invasive species when exporting agricultural products from the USA to other countries.  They are interested in providing training to phytosanitary and port inspectors in other countries to use the ISC as a tool to help them identify invasive species in global agricultural trade coming into their countries.

• The US Forest Service (FS) has a myriad uses for the information in the ISC.  First, the Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public forests and grasslands.  The specific information in the ISC provides options to land managers on how to control the invasive species allows land managers.  Information on pathways and pathway vectors allows land managers to prevent new invasives entering their land.  Second, the FS Research Program has a strategic research area on invasive species.  For the 300 researchers, access to the up-to-date, continuously upgraded science-based datasheets gives them excellent information with a great threshold on its quality control.  It saves them time and facilitates collaboration with other scientists working on the specific invasive of concern.  Third, the FS Forest Health Protection Program provides funds and technical assistance on invasive species to state foresters and private landowners.  The ISC information is invaluable for state resource managers that deal with invasives affecting state and private forests and grasslands.  Fourth, the FS International Program has a focus on invasives that may come into the USA from Asia.  The ISC information on invasive species in Asia will assist FS staff and their collaborators to focus research and technology development efforts.

• The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides funds and technical assistance to private farmers, ranchers and landowners in the USA.  Millions of acres in agricultural crops and grasslands are managed by these private citizens.  NRCS 1,800 technical people assist landowners to prepare a management plan for their farm and to get federal funds for its management, including the costs of prevention, control and management of invasive species.  The ISC information is a source for the NRCS extension service staff to have critical and up-to-date information to advice each farmer on how to avoid or control invasives in their lands.

•  The USDA Rural Development agency (RD) assists citizens in a myriad of activities that promote rural development in the US.  The agency finances the acquisition of farms and building of homes, roads, aqueducts, power lines and other physical infrastructure necessary for rural development.  The ISC information about invasive species present in the proposed area of rural development is used in the environmental documents required by the US National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.  The availability of the ISC information saves agency time and funds and provides solid scientific information on which the agency can base the proposed action.  Furthermore, when RD has to maintain lands in the electrical rights of way, the ISC information on control of the invasive species is essential to facilitate management of such species.

• For the US Agency for International Development the interest in the ISC is diverse.  First: making available ISC information for use by other countries is a way to help them increase agricultural, forestry and aquaculture production, with a result of diminishing food scarcity.  Second:  use of ISC information to manage invasives in other countries results in protecting their biological diversity.  Third: sharing various options for control of invasive species (such as mechanical, cultural, biological, and chemical control) has an impact on the costs of managing such species and the recognition of the impacts of the various control options on humans and their environment.

• For the National Ocean Service (NOS), the ISC is an invaluable tool for researchers working on invasives in the oceanic, aquatic and riverine ecosystems of the US.  For the NOS marine sanctuary managers, the ISC gives them options to prevent new invasives and manage invasives in their marine reserves.

• For the US Fish and Wildlife Agency (USFWS) the up-to-date science in each invasive species datasheet allows them to use it as the best available science in regulating and prohibiting some invasives to be imported into the USA. Their regulations designate the particular invasive species as an “injurious species” to fish or wildlife in the US, per the Lacey Act.  

We continue to work with and invite other agencies in the US government to join the global ISC.  Each one of them will have specific uses for the information.  The quality, professionalism and the commitment that the information will be kept up-to-date up to 2016 (with the intention of continuing as long as it is useful to do so) assures us that this is an exceptional tool to deal with the invasive species problems in our country and elsewhere in the world.  In the United States, we are committed to participate actively in this extraordinary project.   I invite your country and organization to join us.

Visit the Invasive Species Compendium HERE.


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