Are we being invaded by aliens? Never fear …

Spinycheek Crayfish - a US native.
Spinycheek Crayfish – a US native.

02/10/2012. … EASIN is here. The European Commission’s new EASIN (European Alien Species Information Network) database is intended to help report and track some 16,000 invasive species currently being reported across the region.

Invasive alien animals and plants in natural environments represent a serious threat to native plants and animals across Europe. They are considered the most significant cause of biodiversity loss after habitat alteration. and cause problems for natural resources, people’s health and the economy, at a cost estimated at around € 12 billion per year.

The EASIN network
So says the European Commission’s Environment DG, which is why it has set up the European Alien Species Information Network (EASIN) to report, monitor and make available data on the alien species currently reported across the region. EASIN is hosted by the Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Italy, and is the first information network of its kind in Europe.

Species like giant hogweed, signal crayfish, Zebra mussels and muskrats impact on human health, choke waterways and cause substantial damage to forestry, crops and fisheries. Japanese knotweed for example inhibits the growth of other plants, outcompetes native plants, and seriously damages infrastructure, with huge economic implications. Studies have shown that in England, Scotland and Wales, this one plant causes € 205 million of damage each year.

A free service
How many plants can be found in the Alps that are not native to that area? Which animals were deliberately or accidently introduced to the Danube? How big a threat are they to local wildlife? These are the kind of questions that EASIN is expected to help answer.

EASIN links together data from over 40 online databases worldwide, and makes available the web tools and services to use that data. EASIN web tools and services can be utilized freely and independently by any website, while ownership of the data remains with its source, which is properly cited and linked.

EASIN at launch contains a catalogue of around 16,000 alien species in Europe, including the 27 EU member states, five candidate countries and 17 other European countries. It also covers marine species found in the entire Mediterranean, i.e. also from North African and Near East Mediterranean countries.

Search with widgets
The online service allows users to research the incidence of individual species by selecting the name (based on scientific or common names). Two filters, one on environment (terrestrial, marine, freshwater) and another on impact (high, low, all) can be used to refine the selection.

At present the service is in beta mode, but eventually the results of the search may be saved and retrieved as a table, enabling the user to produce maps of species distribution based on one of three possible scales: 10×10 km grid, European countries or River Basin Districts.

A key feature of EASIN is the availability of website widgets, which enable users to quickly construct other online applications to make use of the data. Widgets require zero programming skills, enabling content authors to quickly set up customised search or mapping results (say) for a website without having to program. This feature offers a fast and flexible way to show EASIN data on other websites focusing on biodiversity issues.

More information:

JRC press contacts: (+39 33 278 9743)
Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 3593)
Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 1830)

© Philip Hunt, 2012.

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