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3.5 Invasive alien species


Alien species are plants and animals that have deliberately or accidentally been introduced outside their natural range. When finding good living conditions such species may spread quickly and thus become “invasive”. Once established, they are difficult or impossible to control.

In the aquatic environment, alien species are non-native plants or animals that compete with and could even eradicate natural aquatic species. Invasive alien species (IAS) are thus a significant pressure to the good ecological status of surface waters, aquatic habitats and species in general. Within the 2nd RBMPs, 15 European countries reported IAS as a significant pressure for ca. 2 700 water bodies (2 % of total) with the highest proportion being reported in Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, and Slovakia.

It is estimated that there are ca. 750 freshwater species which are established aliens or suspected to be alien in European inland waters (Nunes, et al., 2015). Species such as the Chinese mitten crab or the zebra mussel are a major threat to Europe’s aquatic biodiversity. The number of IAS in European freshwaters has been rising, having increased sevenfold over the last 100 years (European Network on Invasive Alien Species) ([1]). The highest numbers of freshwater alien species have been registered in river basin districts in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Norway and Finland (Figure 16) (Cid, and Cardoso, 2013).

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