Combating against invasive alien species in Central – and Eastern-Europe

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Article issued by Csaba Bereczki

Every year, the Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship supports the work of young conservationist in protected areas across Europe. Csaba was one of the winners of the Scholarship in 2017.

 Invasive alien species are among the biggest threats to biodiversity, causing huge problems worldwide in nature conservation, forestry, agriculture, public health, and economy. Despite the fact that global knowledge is getting bigger and bigger every day about invasive alien species, new practices and techniques occur in mapping, monitoring and eradication, conservationist should improve their skills in order to act immediately and precisely for new challenges connected to newly occurring species, fast spreading of known species in order to protect the most sensitive native habitats and species, and eradicate invasive species.

Eradication of Heracleum sp. at Kiskunság National Park

Due to global climate change and international commerce the spread of invasive alien species is accelerating more and more. Thus, collecting information from similar habitats and sharing knowledge about best-practice methods of detection, mapping, monitoring, and eradication is essential in the effective and efficient combat against invasive alien species. It is also very important to make non-professional people understand the problem of invasive alien species and get them involved in the combat against them.

During the extraordinary opportunity provided by EUROPARC and Alfred Toepfer Foundation, I made a study tour through protected areas of Central- and Eastern-Europe in order to fulfill as many gaps in my knowledge considering the issues connected to invasive alien species and to help my organization in the combat against them.

The first station of my study tour was the Fertő-Hanság National Park Directorate, where I had the opportunity to get an insight into one of the most precise detection, mapping, and monitoring system, which would be applicable to my home organization after some slight modifications.

At the Kiskunság National Park Directorate, I gained general experiences about those IAS, which occur at Hortobágy National Park Directorate. These experiences will help to improve and adjust our recent practices in order to be more effective and efficient in the combat against IAS, especially against the tree of heaven.

Eradication of tree of heaven in the Kiskunság National Park

The experts of Biebrza National Park are very experienced in involving non-professional people (children, students, interns, tourists, locals, etc.) into the eradication measures they take against IAS. I had the opportunity to get involved one of these actions taken against IAS together with volunteers.

One of the most important and threatening IAS is black locust in Hungary. It was very important to gain as many information about this species as possible during the tour. The Podyjí National Park has a lot to work against black locust. During my visit, I met different eradication practices applied by the experts of Podyjí within different circumstances. It was very useful to compare the efficiency and effectiveness of all of these techniques, and all the bad and good examples.

In Thayatal National Park they introduced me to one of the most precise monitoring programmes.

The visit to Šumava National Park broadened my knowledge about IAS animals, especially about the different detection tools. Furthermore, the staff members introduced their relevant experiences about the Himalayan balsam and the garden lupine. The eradication measures I learned would be very important and useful in the near future because both species are about to spread quickly in Hungary.

In Croatia, with the help of the experts of Medvednica Nature Park, I broaden my knowledge about the black locust and different non-chemical, forest management techniques against them. This station of my tour was also very useful regarding the legislation and authorization processes.

The last station was the Bükk National Park Directorate. I learned here new mapping and monitoring practices, which are going to be used after modification at Hortobágy National Park Directorate, too.  Additionally, we compared our knowledge about IAS animals like spinycheek crayfish and invasive fish species. This part of my tour was very useful considering the way how I understand IAS because within certain circumstances species behave differently then we expect, like the case of European smoktree.

Dense smoke tree layer under open oak forest in Bükk National Park

The whole study tour did raise my attention (again) about the most important thing experts can do in their combat against IAS and that is (even though it sometimes seems hopeless), sharing their experiences and joining forces in order to help each other in every step of this combat: detection, mapping, monitoring, eradication and raising awareness.

Take a look at the short video summarizing main objectives, questions, and answers of the Report:

You can download the complete Study Tour Report here!