The delegates and support teams are beginning to look a little weary as the many different topics are finalized – agricultural biodiversity, biofuels and biodiversity, the Global Strategy on Plant Conservation, invasive species and global targets for the ten years after this year – the Year of Biodiversity, writes Geoffrey Howard, Global Invasive Species Coordinator from IUCN’s East and Southern Africa office.
To my delight, the subject of alien invasive species was everywhere – in the discussions of whether pet animals or live bait for fishing could become invasive; amongst the targets to be achieved by 2020 in the Plant Conservation Strategy (keeping the invasions in check); species causing problems with biofuel production, and hoping in a global way to remove the threat of invasive species to biodiversity by 2020. And, if one cared to look, one might even see some growing and swimming amongst the well-kept gardens and ponds of the conference venue.
But a group of us wanted to pursue a little further the threat of these invasive animals and plants to biodiversity (the subject of the year). So, together with our ever-helpful IUCN Communications Team, we presented a press briefing on the topic of invasive species in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and forest reserves in Africa. We talked to a few representatives of the press and some interested conference delegates about how we need to raise awareness of this threat to biological diversity – even within those areas of protection which are set aside to conserve biodiversity. And then we made the point that, inadvertently, some protected areas may be protecting invasive species, keeping them safe and sound and ready to break out and cause trouble elsewhere. We asked that people who work in or visit protected areas look out for new or foreign plants and animals and inform the managers – hopefully to nip a biological invasion in the bud. Even in the garden? Why not.