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Invasive species in Europe: ecology, status, and policy

Reuben P Keller1*, Juergen Geist2, Jonathan M Jeschke3 and Ingolf Kühn4

Author Affiliations

1 Program on the Global Environment, University of Chicago, Chicago IL 60637, USA

2 Aquatic Systems Biology Unit, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem Management, Technische Universität München, Mühlenweg 22, 85354 Freising, Germany

3 Department of Biology II, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Grosshaderner Str. 2, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany

4 UFZ, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research--UFZ, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, 06120 Halle, Germany

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Environmental Sciences Europe 2011, 23:23  doi:10.1186/2190-4715-23-23

Published: 20 June 2011


Globalization of trade and travel has facilitated the spread of non-native species across the earth. A proportion of these species become established and cause serious environmental, economic, and human health impacts. These species are referred to as invasive, and are now recognized as one of the major drivers of biodiversity change across the globe. As a long-time centre for trade, Europe has seen the introduction and subsequent establishment of at least several thousand non-native species. These range in taxonomy from viruses and bacteria to fungi, plants, and animals. Although invasive species cause major negative impacts across all regions of Europe, they also offer scientists the opportunity to develop and test theory about how species enter and leave communities, how non-native and native species interact with each other, and how different types of species affect ecosystem functions. For these reasons, there has been recent growth in the field of invasion biology as scientists work to understand the process of invasion, the changes that invasive species cause to their recipient ecosystems, and the ways that the problems of invasive species can be reduced. This review covers the process and drivers of species invasions in Europe, the socio-economic factors that make some regions particularly strongly invaded, and the ecological factors that make some species particularly invasive. We describe the impacts of invasive species in Europe, the difficulties involved in reducing these impacts, and explain the policy options currently being considered. We outline the reasons that invasive species create unique policy challenges, and suggest some rules of thumb for designing and implementing management programs. If new management programs are not enacted in Europe, it is inevitable that more invasive species will arrive, and that the total economic, environmental, and human health impacts from these species will continue to grow.

Alien species; Biodiversity conservation; Biological invasions; Biotic resistance; Impacts of invasive species; Management; Pathways; Policy; Tens rule; Vectors