Invasive species experts call for action

28 March 2011 | News story

Threats posed by invasive species and ways to monitor and control them will be discussed at a meeting in the Republic of Burundi tomorrow, with special focus on invasive species that are spreading in the basin of one of African Great Lakes, Lake Tanganyika.

Invasive species are species introduced to a new area where they spread causing significant damage to biodiversity and the productivity of natural and agricultural ecosystems. In the 1990s for example, the invasion of water hyacinth and Nile perch in Lake Victoria caused hundreds of fish species to disappear or become extinct and some of the ecosystem to collapse.

Surveys have shown that several invasive plants such as water hyacinth are already present in the Lake Tanganyika basin, and there are also indications of the occurrence of the Nile tilapia, which can have negative impacts on local fish communities and general lake ecology.

Although it is not too late to manage invasive species in the Lake Tanganyika basin, action will need to be taken now to prevent them from spreading and causing further damage to ecosystems and local people. “In the near future, states will need to improve and expand on a strategy that they have enacted in recent years,” says Dr. Geoffrey Howard, expert on invasive species in Africa, and member of the IUCN Invasive Species Initiative. “The emphasis should be on monitoring as well as management of invasive species – including the developing structure of the monitoring process.”

Experts gathered at the meeting will discuss biological control as one of the possible ways to manage invasive species. They will also look into ways to raise awareness about invasive species and to enhance regional cooperation, which can play an important role in monitoring and controlling them.

The workshop, organized by the Lake Tanganyika Authority and supported by the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility, will be held from 29 to 31 March and will gather officials and invasive species experts from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, which are the riparian countries of the lake.

For more information, please contact:

Geoffrey Howard, IUCN's Global Invasive Species Coordinator, Geoffrey.Howard@iucn.org