HM Princess Royal opens Island Invasives conference
Published On Mon 10 Jul 2017 by Roddy Isles
HM The Princess Royal officially opened the `Island Invasives 2017’ conference at the University today (Monday July 10th), the first time the major gathering has taken place in the northern hemisphere.
Invasive alien species (IAS) on islands can have a huge impact on habitats and ecosystems. Island flora and fauna, which have often evolved in isolation for thousands of years, can be particularly vulnerable to extinction from these invaders. However, by their very nature, islands may also offer the possibility of long-term refuge and security if alien species can be eradicated or effectively controlled.
The Island Invasives conference, convened by the South Georgia Heritage Trust and the University of Dundee, is bringing together some of the key practitioners in this field to exchange research results, practical experience and ideas.
Around 300 delegates from 43 countries will be sharing project updates, information and best practice, their presentations offering a global picture of the state of the world’s islands, whose ecosystems often hang in the balance due to the impact of invasive species.
Topics being covered range from biosecurity and plant invasions to rat eradications and tackling mass extinctions. Speakers will explore how achievements in this field can be scaled up to meet the global conservation challenges brought about by invasive species.
Lord Gardiner, the minister responsible for invasive species in England, said, “Invasive non-native species threaten the survival of plants and animals around the world and conferences like this are vital for sharing global expertise and bringing countries together to tackle the problem.
“We are helping our overseas territories protect their precious plants and wildlife and the UK will keep investing and working with the international community and other partners to defend biodiversity at home and abroad.”
This long-overdue gathering will build on the great success of the Island Invasive meetings in 2001 and 2010 held in Auckland, New Zealand. The location will encourage the participation of delegates from Europe and North America, giving them an opportunity to engage with the seasoned practitioners from the Southern Hemisphere.
The conference delegates include representatives from organisations conducting such significant initiatives as the IUCN Honolulu challenge and New Zealand Predator Free 2050.
Seven key note presenters, acclaimed experts in their field, will lead the debate and discussions, supported by exhibitions and sessions with hundreds of other delegates. These important talks will explore and tackle issues including:
- What can be done about the spread of invasive plant species which greatly threaten biodiversity on islands? Mapping species and developing action plans to help control them in specific areas is one way of addressing this issue.
- How do we tackle what is regarded as the sixth mass extinction of species? How can we build on existing partnerships and advances in the field to achieve global conservation goals?
- Rodent eradication is possible using both land-based and air-borne techniques, but when is it best to use these different approaches, and how do you successfully engage local communities?
- · How do we prevent biosecurity from limiting our eradication ambitions and how do we stop it becoming the poor relation due to operational pressures in the delivery of eradication programmes?
- How can civil society organisations play a role in driving forward better eradication programmes and what can we learn from previous collaborations between non-profits, technical experts, Governments and the public?
- Should we broaden the context of invasive species eradications? Often eradications involve targetingmultiple species. We need to consider eradications carried out at much larger scales than on small islands, such as those implemented for human or animal health purposes.
- How can a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) approach to invasive species management on inhabited islands help to achieve the goal of a predator-free New Zealand by 2050?
Host organisation, the South Georgia Heritage Trust recently completed the baiting phase of the world’s largest island rodent eradication operation through its successful Habitat Restoration Project.
As SGHT CEO Alison Neil explains, “SGHT is delighted to be working with the University of Dundee to convene this conference. We know first-hand how important and complex it can be to tackle invasive species from the extensive work we have carried out to eradicate rodents from South Georgia.
“This event comes at a time when there is a new level of ambition for island conservation. By bringing together the world’s leading experts in the field to share their experiences, global initiatives stand a greater chance of success.”
About Island Invasives 2017
For more information, visit http://www.islandinvasives2017.com/
In the context of the Island Invasives 2017 meeting, the definition of ‘island’ is broader than just a piece of land surrounded by water. Much the same problems and solutions apply to land surrounded by predator-proof fences, and to unfenced but isolated patches of habitat such as coral reefs.
Awareness of the damaging impact of invasive species is growing rapidly, just as the problem itself is growing. Island flora and fauna tend to be particularly vulnerable to Invasive alien species (IAS), and many insular endemics have been driven to extinction by these invaders. But, by their very nature, islands may also offer the possibility of long-term refuge and security if alien species can be eradicated or effectively controlled.
Over recent decades, the management and even eradication of island invasives has developed from a concept born of desperation to small scale experimentation, to medium scale trials, to large scale operations where success is almost expected. The scale of response is increasing to meet the escalating challenge. Progress is made largely by learning from the lessons and experience of earlier operations, good and bad. For this, there is no substitute for face-to-face discussion, the discovery of new approaches from posters and spoken presentations, and access to the best people in the business, all gathered in one place.
About South Georgia Heritage Trust
The South Georgia Heritage Trust was founded in 2005 to preserve the sub-Antarctic island’s natural, human and cultural heritage, raise awareness of the island’s endangered flora and fauna through research and public engagement, and manage practical conservation programmes to protect native species.
The Conference is being convened by the South Georgia Heritage Trust in partnership with the University of Dundee primarily because of the help and advice that SGHT received from the Island Invasives community whist undertaking the South Georgia rodent eradication (or Habitat Restoration Project). This was the largest island eradication ever attempted and was a major step forward in island conservation globally.
The charity baited the entire rodent-infested area of the Island of South Georgia (1000km2) in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The total cost of this Habitat Restoration Project, including the monitoring work still to come, is an estimated £7.5 million. The project has been funded entirely by donations raised by Scottish charity SGHT and its US counterpart, Friends of South Georgia Island (FOSGI).
For further information about the Habitat Restoration Project visit: www.sght.org
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