National alien species lists published through GBIF

First 23 validated checklists from the Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species highlighted in paper, signalling major step in delivering information to support national action against biological invasions

Trichomyrmex destructor—Zach Lieberman
The destructive trailing ant (Trichomyrmex destructor) is one of 135 species listed on the GRIIS checklist of introduced and invasive species for the Yemeni island of Soqotra . Photo by Zach Lieberman from AntWeb.org, licensed via CC BY-SA 4.0.

Authoritative lists of alien and invasive species known to occur in 20 countries are now freely accessible through GBIF.org, in the first phase of what will be a comprehensive information resource to support action against one of the most significant threats to biodiversity.

The publication of 23 exemplar checklists from the Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS), including 20 national lists and three sub-national island lists, is the outcome of a long-standing collaboration between GBIF and the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG).

Verified lists for 198 countries, including European Union overseas territories, are expected to be available by the end of 2018.

The methodology behind the compilation and curation of the lists, using a team of ‘country editors’, is detailed in a new paper published in the journal Scientific Data, co-authored by staff from ISSG, Monash University and GBIF Secretariat. Each checklist is formatted according to Darwin Core (DwC) standards, with species matched against the GBIF taxonomic backbone to enable integration with other relevant data shared through GBIF.org. This will enable GBIF to recognize and label occurrence records for species considered non-native in their country of occurrence, and potentially in future to highlight fresh evidence to support changes to the national expert-curated species lists.

The development of GRIIS checklists is part of the wider collaboration convened by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) through the Global Invasive Alien Species Information Partnership (GIASIP). Future plans include linking to the national checklists from the country-level information included in the CBD Clearing House Mechanism (CHM).

The lead author of the publication, Shyama Pagad of ISSG, noted: “A highlight of this initiative is the involvement of networks of country editors who are the custodians of their country’s checklists.”

Piero Genovesi, chair of ISSG and a co-author of the paper, commented: “GRIIS provides credible, authoritative and peer-reviewed information on invasive species, which is essential for informing effective decision-making.”

Another co-author, Melodie McGeoch from the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University in Australia, added: “Cross-border trade and transport is the principal driver of new species introductions, and knowing which species are where is critical to evaluating risk to biodiversity and ecosystems. The new Register is a major step forward in the delivery of information needed to effectively deal with the problem of biological invasions.”

Publication of the GRIIS lists in GBIF.org meets one of the recommendations made by a GBIF expert task group that examined the fitness for use of GBIF-mediated data in invasive species research (a group that Dr McGeoch chaired). It provides options for GBIF.org to offer richer information in future on invasive species by linking checklists to occurrence information through ongoing monitoring programmes, species-level summaries and country pages.

GBIF Secretariat’s scientific officer Dmitry Schigel, also a co-author of the Scientific Data publication, added: “We know that many researchers are already turning to GBIF to access data for studies relating to invasive and alien species, and the risk they pose to biodiversity. This exciting development opens up new possibilities to combine expert knowledge with the wealth of evidence brought together from the collections, observations and monitoring data freely shared by GBIF’s partners around the world.”