European Freshwater ecosystems and Invasive Alien Species

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Friday, 15 June 2018

Freshwater ecosystems are vital components, securing well-being and resilience to human society. Their rich biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide, like drinking water, water purification, energy, flood control, transportation, recreation etc, are only some of the benefits they provide to local communities. Despite their crucial role and the growing recognition of their importance, European freshwater ecosystems face a number of threats, e.g. pollution, habitat degradation, fragmentation and the introduction of invasive alien species (IAS). All these place freshwater ecosystems amongst the most vulnerable habitats globally.

About 9% of the 756 freshwater alien species introduced in the European freshwater ecosystems are considered of high impact. In addition, half of the 48 species included in the list of IAS of Union concern (Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1141; Commission implementing Regulation 2017/1263) are freshwater species. These IAS have a significant impact on local biodiversity, water quality and even on human activities such as fishing and agriculture. The introduction pathways of such species are directly related to human activities such as aquaculture, terrarium-aquarium releases, and shipping. In 2011, the European Commission published the Regulation (EU) No 304/2011 on the use of alien and locally absent species in aquaculture, with the objectives of optimising benefits associated with introductions and translocations of alien species and of reducing negative impacts on ecosystems and indigenous populations. In addition, a voluntary code of conduct on pets and invasive alien species aiming to raise the awareness within the pet industry and among owners and keepers of pets, including aquarium owners and ornamental gardeners.

Useful links

Pathways and gateways of freshwater invasions in Europe

European Environmental Agency: Water and marine environment

European Environmental Agency: Freshwater quality

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