Santa Rutkovska, head of the Invasive Species Department of the LatViaNature nature protection management project, directs this interest in a slightly different direction – reminding that the most effective tool in the fight against invasive species is still public education and information, in order to encourage the conscious participation of every person in the protection of nature and the preservation of natural diversity. This is the main message we should take from activities in other EU countries. The experience of the neighbors can certainly be useful, but it is not possible to copy it at all for the simple reason that the EU consists of 27 countries, which are different and very different in terms of mentality, economic and climatic conditions. In its native environment, the Latvian does not burn, the Spanish snail does not become a machine of destruction of everything green, because one of its natural enemies gets in the way, which destroys the same.
The unifying axis on which the EU’s activities in the fight against invasive species are held together is the Invasive Species Regulation adopted in 2014, which sets out binding recommendations and obligations for every member state of the European Union in reducing the spread of invasive species. The document has an appendix with a list of species (there are 88) that are considered invasive in any EU member state. Some of the species mentioned there have not yet reached all countries, but scientific analysis and calculations show that as soon as suitable conditions arise, invasion will occur, so we must be prepared to prevent dangerous spread. Fighting any invasive species that has already taken over the territory is much more difficult, more expensive, more complicated than not allowing it into your country or property.
Which species are included in the EU Invasive Species Regulation is evaluated and recommended by scientists, but the next step – the specific action – already depends on the politicians of each country. And from the level of understanding and awareness of the people who are the real employers of politicians. So from all of us.
It is very important to identify such a potentially dangerous species as early as possible and include it in the national regulatory framework – then everyone, from the tourist or landowner to the head of the municipality or the minister, knows how to treat the unwanted intruder in which situation. If only a single plant is found, the method is one, completely different – if it has already occupied 10 hectares. For species growing near rivers – one method of struggle, for those “infested” in the forest – another. In hot countries, it should be done this way, in frost-tested countries – differently. When this picture is illustrated and confirmed by a rich database, it is easier to understand and create management action plans about the best methods for a particular course of action.
Of the species included in the EU Invasive Species Regulation, the national regulation in Latvia has so far only been applied to the Sosnoska latviana, but scientists and experts have concluded that we must expect at least 24 more alien plant and animal species (both included in the regulation and others) to threaten the ecosystem and economic processes and species diversity.
Action “We catch strangers in Latvian nature!” echoes the activities that are already known and customary in other European countries – to promote in all ways the concept that each of us has the opportunity to become both a responsible owner of our land and a citizen scientist who, with his participation in data collection, helps science and nature, Santa Rutkovska emphasizes.
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