Protecting Biodiversity from Invasive Alien Species by Improving Policy Instruments in Greece: The INVALIS Project Action Plan
1. The INVALIS Project
- Phase 1 (June 2018–May 2021) consisted of a learning process through exchanges of experiences between partners (four baseline studies, three interregional workshops, two site visits, an EU-wide policy learning event), as well as regional activities (stakeholder meetings, public dialogue events), leading to the drafting of regional Action Plans and accompanied by dissemination and communication actions.
- Phase 2 (June 2021–May 2023), focused on monitoring the Action Plans’ implementation, is still ongoing.
2. The INVALIS Action Plan in Greece—Background
2.1. State of Play at the Beginning of the Project (2018)
- developing a robust institutional framework for detecting, preventing entry, controlling, or eradicating IAS;
- achieving a better understanding of the pathways and the introduction causes as well as the impact of such introductions on biodiversity and the economy;
- developing a comprehensive inventory of IAS observed in natural ecosystems and classifying them based on their frequency, spatial distribution, and potential damage to biodiversity, the economy, and health;
- raising public awareness about the threats presented by IAS.
2.2. Developments in IAS Management in Greece in 2018–2021
2.3. Identification of Gaps in IAS Management
3. Development of the INVALIS Action Plan
3.1. Action 1—Project: Education and Raising Awareness about IAS
- Ministry for Ecological Transition and Sustainability—Junta de Extremadura presented during the 1st Interregional Workshop  a wide range of actions, targeting not only the general public (communicating the problem of biological invasions in mass media, web portals, preparation of informative material, merchandising) and education sector (e.g., school workshops), but also specific sectors involved in IAS management (pet ownership, fisheries/aquaculture, forestry) and public authorities.
- Corsican Agency of Environment presented the Action pour Limiter les risques de diffusion des espèces Introduites Envahissantes en Méditerranée (ALIEM) project , which contributed to raising awareness through brochures, communication campaigns, exhibitions, interventions with schools, and specific meetings with key players in the environment. Field trips were also organized .
- Lombardy Foundation for the Environment submitted, as a good practice, the creation of an integrated office in the airport of Orio al Serio, managing the control of IAS and actively informing passengers, customs inspectors, and all agents involved, of the problems caused by IAS .
- During the EU-wide policy learning event, the LIFE INVASAQUA project  was presented, the main objective of which is to raise the awareness of the Iberian public and stakeholders regarding the problem of IAS in aquatic ecosystems. This will be achieved by developing courses, training days for key groups (surveillance agents, river and estuary users, educators, etc.), and a mass media communication campaign.
3.1.2. Nature of the Action
- Organize training seminars/workshops on IAS for local and regional authorities, especially the ones responsible for implementing the IAS Regulation. Such seminars will lead to their increased capacity in IAS management, allowing for better local policy implementation and the allocation of funding . The seminars/workshops should also include references to existing smart-apps created for the general public.
- Prepare TV and radio spots on IAS. These could be more effective if they focus on a few easily recognizable IAS that are significant in Greece. Species used as pets must be prioritized, since raising the awareness of owners or potential owners can have a real effect in limiting their spread. The threats associated with the presence of IAS must be stressed, as well as the necessity of taking measures for their management.
- Organize exhibitions at country’s entry points, such as ports or airports . Research on the pathways of IAS introduction could help identify the most appropriate places for such exhibitions.
- Carry out education and awareness-raising in schools (e.g., through the development of an e-book for children). Working with schools can contribute to increasing the understanding of IAS management measures from broader sections of society.
- Organize environmental education events e.g., through field trips in city parks in which IAS are present. During these events, behavioral changes that limit the spread of IAS can be encouraged .
- Prepare information material for visitors in protected areas, as well as for owners and customers of establishments related to pathways of introduction, e.g., pet shops, plant nurseries, boat owners, divers, and port managers. Such information material can also be posted on selected websites. Besides stressing the threats associated with IAS and the need for management measures, the information must also include legally binding management measures against IAS and relevant obligations e.g., of pet owners. The existence of smart-apps created for the general public, such as the “Invasive Alien Species Europe” app [55,56], should also be emphasized.
3.2. Action 2—Web Portal on IAS
- The Combating invasive species within the Tagus and Guadiana river basins in the Iberian peninsula (INVASEP) web portal in Extremadura  contains adapted information regarding IAS, teaching and school materials, an audiovisual area, news, games, and warning networks.
- The “Invasoras” Platform in Portugal [58,59] primarily focuses on the alien flora in terrestrial ecosystems. It contains comprehensive profiles of the species considered invasive in Portugal, provides useful tools and information for managers, scientific community members, and anyone interested in the topic, and offers learning material for environmental education.
3.2.2. Nature of Action
- A general introduction to the subject of IAS;
- Links to IAS-related projects in Greece (completed/ongoing) and to websites focusing on specific IAS categories (e.g., ELNAIS , Alien Plants in Greece ), as well as to international networks, such as EASIN  or International Association for Open Knowledge on Invasive Alien Species (INVASIVESNET) ;
- Educational material e.g., factsheets on IAS, presentations, quizzes;
- News related to IAS management in Greece (e.g., scientific publications, new developments on the institutional framework, IAS sightings);
- A discussion room for IAS stakeholders, in which various issues on IAS management, as well as ideas for new projects and recommendations for already ongoing projects, can be discussed.
- Assess the current status (pre-existing websites on IAS).
- Determine the content of the web portal: available data, information, links to other websites.
- Define the agents responsible for the management of the portal, as well as those providing information.
- Design and develop the portal and data infrastructure.
- Collect existing information and feed it to the web portal.
- Examine the possibilities for communication and information exchange among registered users.
- Define the mechanisms for the maintenance of the portal, as well as its updating through the flow of new information.
3.3. Action 3—IAS Management Working Group
- Corsica Alien Network [44,65], which integrates various invasive species scholars, regional and local authorities, research institutes, universities, environmental organizations, divers, and professional and citizens’ associations. The originality and effectiveness of the network are based on this mode of operation, involving some 30 island partners .
- Iberian Working Group on Invasive Alien Species, which maintains the connection between the different regional and state-level administrations in Spain .
3.3.2. Nature of Action
4. INVALIS Action Plan Outlook
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|EASIN||European Alien System Information Network|
|ELNAIS||Hellenic Network on Aquatic Invasive Species|
|IAS||Invasive Alien Species|
|JMD||Joint Ministerial Decision|
|MoEE||Ministry of Environment and Energy|
|NECCA||Natural Environment and Climate Change Agency|
Appendix A. INVALIS Project Partners
|Partner Name||Country||Role in Project|
|Natural Environment and Climate Change Agency||Greece||Lead Partner|
|Lombardy Foundation for the Environment||Italy||Partner|
|Ministry for Ecological Transition & Sustainability—Junta de Extremadura||Spain||Partner|
|Corsican Agency of Environment||France||Partner|
|Bucharest-Ilfov Regional Development Agency||Romania||Partner|
|Institute of Sciences, Technologies and Agroenvironment of the University of Porto||Portugal||Advisory Partner|
|Zemgale Planning Region||Latvia||Partner|
Appendix B. Regional INVALIS Activities in Greece
|1||Introductory meeting||29 October 2019||Physical|
|2||IAS: Eradication, control, and impact mitigation methods||16 December 2019||Physical|
|3||Emerging conflicts of interest in IAS management||25 November 2020||Virtual|
|4||Evaluation of territories/ecosystems’ vulnerability to IAS||5 February 2021||Virtual|
|5||Implementation of the EU directives regarding IAS||31 March 2021||Virtual|
|6||INVALIS results and management of IAS in Greece||2 June 2021||Virtual|
|Stakeholder Meeting 1||Information is fragmented and not analyzed through the perspective of the IAS Regulation.|
There is a need to establish a stakeholders’ network (public authorities, scientific community, NGOs) for systematic exchange of information and ideas.
|Stakeholder Meeting 2||Greece has not implemented a wide range of actions in eradication, control, and impact mitigation yet.|
Specific criteria must be taken into account by the choice of the most appropriate treatment methods (e.g., biology of the species, biogeography of habitat, reversal of positive and negative effects, economic criteria).
|Stakeholder Meeting 3||There is a need for clarifying the situation regarding the legal framework, as well as of protocols and coordination in IAS management.|
The knowledge collected should be available to local administration and the management bodies of protected areas, so that timely measures can be taken.
It is very important to have tools for communication and raising public awareness, which is generally considered to be the most appropriate method for dealing with conflicts of interest.
|Stakeholder Meeting 4||There are indications that some regions in Greece are more vulnerable to IAS, but in order to have a better picture on this, more intensive field research and the collection of quantitative data are required.|
Drafting a national list of IAS is necessary for the effective protection of ecosystems in Greece, even if it is not an obligation according to the IAS Regulation.
The need for raising awareness is not limited to common citizens, but also extends to the responsible public authorities. This is an area to which INVALIS can and must contribute.
|Stakeholder Meeting 5||The draft JMD is just a first step and others must follow, in order to achieve effective IAS management in Greece.|
It is crucial to inform local communities and raise public awareness, by highlighting IAS as an important problem. This will also support their early eradication, since their management after they have spread is much more difficult.
|Stakeholder Meeting 6||Comprehensive and integrated management, as well as the cooperation of professionals, public authorities, scientists, and other stakeholders (e.g., recreational fishers, diving clubs) are a precondition for effective management.|
The experience from INVALIS demonstrated the value of synergies and interactions. It is very important to use the tools of INVALIS to lay the groundwork for the preservation and strengthening of networking.
|Public Dialogue Event||There is plenty of scientific knowledge available on IAS in Greece, but there is no central collection that would ensure it is available to all concerned parties and utilized for different purposes.|
There is lack of coordination and contacts between stakeholders coming from different backgrounds.
Drafting a national list of IAS is a crucial step in addressing the issue.
Campaigns for raising public awareness, distribution maps, guides for the recognition of IAS, citizen science, and also training of staff in the responsible public authorities and relevant professional bodies are vital steps toward the early detection and effective management of IAS.
Funding sources for projects related to IAS should be better utilized.
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|Action||Possible Players Involved||Timeframe|
|Action 1. New project on education and raising public awareness about the issue of IAS||Ministry of Environment and Energy, Ministry of Education, universities/research institutes, managing authorities of protected areas||2021–2023|
|Action 2. Web portal on IAS||Universities/research centers, ministries, managing authorities of protected areas, associations of hunters and fishers||2021–2023|
|Action 3. IAS Management Working Group||All INVALIS stakeholders (universities/research centers, public authorities, managing bodies of protected areas, environmental NGOs, associations of hunters and fishers)||2021–2023 and onwards|
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Roussos, O.; Kapetanopoulou, C.; Petza, D. Protecting Biodiversity from Invasive Alien Species by Improving Policy Instruments in Greece: The INVALIS Project Action Plan. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2021, 9, 1205. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9111205
Roussos O, Kapetanopoulou C, Petza D. Protecting Biodiversity from Invasive Alien Species by Improving Policy Instruments in Greece: The INVALIS Project Action Plan. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. 2021; 9(11):1205. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9111205Chicago/Turabian Style
Roussos, Orfeas, Christina Kapetanopoulou, and Dimitra Petza. 2021. "Protecting Biodiversity from Invasive Alien Species by Improving Policy Instruments in Greece: The INVALIS Project Action Plan" Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 9, no. 11: 1205. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9111205