GBIF ramps up support of information needed to tackle invasive alien species

New task group to address data challenges revealed by IPBES assessment, national needs for tracking progress toward reducing impacts of invasive alien species

Pterois volitans-iNat-paigewinter-hero
Lionfish (Pterois volitans), observed in Bahamas, where it is recorded as invasive in the Global Register of Introduced and Invasives Species. Photo 2023 Paige Winter via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

A new GBIF task group will address the urgent need for improved access to better data and information on invasive alien species in response to the landmark Invasive Alien Species Assessment approved by the the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) this month.

Among its findings, the IPBES Thematic Assessment of Invasive Alien Species and Their Control concluded that support for information systems, infrastructures and data sharing was one of seven complementary strategic actions that could achieve ambitious progress in management, prevention and control of biological invasions.

Strategic actions to prevent the introduction and impact of invasive alien species include:… Support information systems, infrastructures and data sharing (§D25)

The report also identified the critical role that open and interoperable information systems can play in understanding biological invasions, supported by international cooperation and networking among governments, stakeholders.

Strengthening existing open information systems can facilitate the management of biological invasions, including prioritization of actions, early detection, and rapid response, and improve the effectiveness of regulations. Open information systems can substantially reduce the costs of management by ensuring targeted and appropriate responses, avoiding duplication of effort and facilitating the evaluation of the effectiveness of policy instruments through indicators.…It can also improve the availability of data and knowledge across geographic regions, habitats and taxonomic groups and reduce the wide variation in response capability. Through citizen science, information systems have the potential to engage people, raise awareness and increase the availability of data. (§D31)

The assessment also identified the most important data gaps relating to invasive alien species, "which, if closed, would strengthen the understanding of biological invasions" in marine, tropical and polar ecosystems; among microorganisms and invertebrates; as well as regional data gaps especially in Africa and Central Asia (Table SPM.A1).

The task group recommended by the GBIF Science Committee, and endorsed by the GBIF Executive Committee will review recent developments in the science-policy interface relating to invasive alien species, and recommend actions for GBIF that will best address the needs of data users. These developments include not just the IPBES assessment but also the needs of governments to track progress towards Target 6 of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), relating to preventing or reducing the introduction and establishment of invasive alien species.

Farm biosecurity warning sign at a farm gate in County Kerry, Ireland. Photo by gabriel12/Shutterstock, courtesy of the IPBES Media Team.

“The IPBES assessment has highlighted the essential need for robust and sustainable open-access data systems to support the actions required for reducing the huge impacts of biological invasions on biodiversity, people and economies. GBIF is ideally placed to meet that need, working in partnership with relevant expert communities while drawing on its unparalleled range of data-sharing institutions, including citizen science groups," said Dr Melodie McGeoch, professor of life sciences at La Trobe University, vice chair of the GBIF Science Committee, and a coordinating lead author of the IPBES assessment. "This new task group will help identify the pragmatic steps that can be taken quickly to ensure that GBIF meets its full potential as an information resource in this area, particularly by addressing the data gaps identified in the IPBES assessment."

“The GBIF Science Committee considered invasive species as an area that already justified priority attention in the coming period, and the IPBES assessment has further reinforced this view," said Dr Birgit Gemeinholzer, committee chair and professor of botany at the University of Kassel. "We are confident that the new task group will build effectively on the work already achieved to anchor GBIF as a major reference point for research and policy in the field of invasion biology.”

“It is clear that the issue of invasive alien species is among the strategic priorities for GBIF in demonstrating the importance of our network and infrastructure in addressing major global challenges," said Dr Liam Lysaght, director of Ireland's National Biodiversity Data Centre and chair of the GBIF Governing Board. "We know that data flowing through GBIF already provides an irreplaceable body of evidence on invasive alien species, but we also know we can do even better–and that’s where the task group can help.”

The topic of invasive alien species accounts for nearly 14 per cent of published peer-reviewed uses of data from the GBIF network, with almost 1,300 papers relating to invasives recorded in the archive of GBIF-enabled research compiled through its literature tracking programme.

The new task group will build on the work of a previous expert group responsible for the 2016 report, Data fitness for use in research on alien and invasive species. In addition to synthesizing recent developments and their relevance to GBIF, the new group will apply a use case on invasive alien species as part of the new GBIF data model and examine the future of the partnership between GBIF and the Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS), a project of the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

GRIIS publishes more than 380 checklists of introduced and invasive species relating to countries, islands and protected areas to GBIF, and their integration within the GBIF infrastructure enables the inclusion of information about introduced ranges and invasive status on species pages. This information also feeds into country profiles for the Clearing-House Mechanism of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The GRIIS checklists, combined with occurrence records from GBIF's network of more than 2,100 data-publishing institutions, provided IPBES assessment authors with a framework for analysing the status and trends of invasive alien species, demonstrating one of the essential roles that GBIF plays in delivering underlying evidence that informs the GBF.

Learn more

IPBES (2023) Summary for Policymakers of the Thematic Assessment Report on Invasive Alien Species and their Control of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Roy HE, Pauchard A, Stoett P, Renard Truong T, Bacher S, Galil BS, Hulme PE, Ikeda T, Sankaran KV, McGeoch MA, Meyerson LA, Nuñez MA, Ordonez A, Rahlao SJ, Schwindt E, Seebens H, Sheppard AW, and Vandvik V, eds. Bonn, Germany: IPBES Secretariat.