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photo Nicolas Poulet – Onema


photo Nicolas Poulet – Onema

Effective management of invasive species

Biological invasions can disturb aquatic biodiversity. More knowledge is required to understand the phenomena. That has been the objective at Onema since 2007 and the agency not only funds research, but it also manages a work group that is unique in France.

Does a non-native species introduced by humans necessarily represent a danger for biodiversity? There is no simple answer to that question. Research is therefore essential to provide managers confronted with the invasive species with more information. And time is of the essence because in both continental France and the overseas territories, there is already a long list of invaders. Whether animals or plants, whether introduced on purpose or not, invasive species have rapidly adapted to their new environment to the detriment of the local species. The ecological and economic consequences are serious.

Put research results to good use

Onema has funded research work, notably that of the National institute for agronomic research (INRA) and the National museum of natural history (MNHN), since 2010. One of the most recent projects deals with the Louisiana crayfish, a species that is now massively present in the Brière regional nature park in the Loire-Atlantique department. Over a period of three years, researchers from INRA and CNRS worked to determine the impact of the crustaceans on the food web in the ecosystem, using a special sampling technique designed to avoid catching the other aquatic species. The results leave no doubt. "The presence of the crayfish has resulted in major upheaval in the ecosystem because it 'simplifies' the food web by eliminating numerous aquatic invertebrates", notes Nicolas Poulet, scientific officer at Onema.

Very quickly, Onema became aware of the need to provide information on invasive species in order to answer the questions of local partners, departmental councils, nature parks, fishing federations, engineering firms, environmental-protection groups, etc. In 2008, it set up the IBMA work group on biological invasions in aquatic environments to identify the needs of managers, to answer their questions and to put to good use the results of the various research projects in which Onema is involved.

In addition to managing the www.gt-ibma.eu site, IBMA publishes a newsletter presenting the current news, topical reports and links to recent scientific publications. The work group is currently finishing a good-practices guide for invasive species in aquatic environments. The first part of the document provides general information and the second presents examples of management work by and for water managers, addressing different species. The group also provides the Ecology ministry with technical support, notably for the preparation of the European regulation on invasive species in aquatic environments.

New partnership with IUCN

Though initially created for three years with Irstea, the work group has since become a stakeholder network that is unique in France. And in January 2014, the situation changed significantly. The French committee of the International union for the conservation of nature (IUCN) stepped in to replace Irstea as the managing and coordinating entity of the work group. "IUCN was already a member of the work group, working notably on invasive species in the overseas territories, so the transition was quite natural", explains Nicolas Poulet.

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