Research & results

Invasive species

Invasive alien species often have a negative impact on humans and their environment. In Flanders, the Agency for Nature and Forests (ANB) is responsible for preventing the introduction and spread of species, the management of established species, and reporting on these matters. INBO coordinates the monitoring of the status of invasive or potentially invasive species and supports the ANB.

More and more species are reaching Flanders. Little is known about their impact on our biodiversity and our society, and about the specific approach that is needed, with the result that INBO’s task grows ever larger. We therefore prioritise focusing on species about which knowledge is already available, such as birds, carnivores, plants and insects. However, we also want to pay more attention to aquatic species, using new detection techniques such as eDNA in close cooperation with the Flemish Environment Agency.

There are five important pillars within this theme.

  1. The first and most priority pillar is monitoring, surveillance and open data. This refers to various actions to detect introductions, monitor their spread and make the data accessible. European Union member states are developing oversight systems for this. These include area-wide monitoring and targeted surveillance, which is confined to risk areas. INBO is developing a monitoring framework and methods for this purpose and sharing its knowledge with the other actors. The Invasive Alien Species portal ensures access to data on invasive alien species in Belgium. Each species needs a specific approach. as is shown by Vespawatch, a citizen science project about the Asian hornet.
    INBO is responsible for coordination in Flanders: we supply the portal with data, knowledge and information, which we collect ourselves or in conjunction with external actors, and we optimise the data flows. INBO reports to Europe on the spread of invasive species.
  2. Risk management and management evaluation (Pillar 2) is also a high priority. Managers need feasible and meaningful management measures that are evidence-based. The management approach depends on the species, but must also take the context of the ecosystem into account. INBO integrates knowledge in this context through a scenario approach, based on clear goals, rigorous management monitoring and alignment with the expectations of the different stakeholders. Knowledge about the effectiveness of management measures is exchanged in networks in which management, policymakers and the world of science are represented.
  3. A third important pillar, impact and risk analysis, is closely linked to the two previous pillars. This involves detecting trends and predicting which species we can expect in Belgium over the next 10 years and what impact they will have. INBO implements this pillar through the provision of ad hoc advice based on knowledge integration.
  4. The fourth pillar is in-depth systems-oriented research into the resilience of ecosystems. We are looking to work with universities for this pillar (e.g. doctoral research).
  5. We are also committed to working with external parties on the human dimensions of biological invasions (Pillar 5).