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IUCN contributes to a new paper which aims to help combat Invasive Alien Species

23 January 2018
Emerald ash borer copyright USGSBIML Flickr CC pd

The IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group has made a major contribution to a paper published today in the journal Scientific Data, which provides a detailed description of the data behind The Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS).

Developed by the IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group, in conjunction with The Global Invasive Alien Species Information Partnership, GRIIS is the first open-access, evidence-based database to tackle international concerns about invasive alien species. 

The impact of invasive alien species is far-reaching and can lead to biodiversity loss and extinction, change in the composition of ecosystems and can affect human well-being and economies. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ indicates that invasive species are the most common threat associated with extinctions of amphibians, reptiles and mammals, especially on islands, and the increasing movement of people and goods around the world is leading to a rise in alien species introductions. The impacts of invasive alien species are undermining global efforts on sustainable development, affecting food security, livelihoods, human health and economies. 

Water hyacinth Kisumu docks Copyright Richard Portsmouth Flickr CC BY ND 2.0The socio-economic and environmental impacts of invasive species can be exemplified in the case of the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). The species, which is native to South America, is spreading across Africa, Asia, Oceania and North America, limiting oxygen and sunlight in rivers. The infestations have impacted fish levels, blocked navigation routes, increased disease and affected access to water by reducing hydropower capacity. It is important to effectively monitor and control species movement to reduce these types of scenarios for the future.

The GRIIS database uses a series of country-specific checklists to help governments highlight problem invasive species and offers a basis for countries to prepare their own national strategies to combat invasive species. “GRIIS provides credible, authoritative and peer-reviewed information on introduced species,” said Dr. Piero Genovesi Chair of the IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group, and co-author of the paper. “By fully understanding the issue, governments can use the checklists to inform effective decision making and prioritise problem species to tackle first.”
Asian hornet Vespa velutina copyright Danel Solabarrieta Flickr CC by sa The database will help countries meet globally agreed targets on biodiversity (Aichi Target 9) and sustainable development (SDG Target 15.8), which specifically focus on reducing the impacts from invasive alien species. “GRIIS is a major step forward in the delivery of information needed to effectively deal with the problem of biological invasions,” states senior author Professor McGeoch. “It was designed to facilitate transparent, repeatable information on invasions and this new paper provides detailed information about the GRIIS platform and its development.” The paper includes 23 exemplar checklists and over 11,000 records are included on introduced and invasive species for 20 countries.

In the United Arab Emirates, the implementation of GRIIS led to the identification of 258 established alien species – only 146 of these species had been previously identified. The data was discussed in a dedicated workshop and verified by national experts, leading to the UAE authorities prioritising of 57 alien species for intervention. “It is a major breakthrough to have these 20 national checklists published as a data paper,” said co-author Dr Dmitry Schigel. “National checklists allow us to better understand invasive alien species and make predictions for species movement in the future. We hope that the methods described in this paper will make it easier for other GRIIS countries to develop their national checklists.” 

Orange pore fungus IAS Favolaschia calocera copyright Sid Mosdell Flick CC byThe IUCN Global Invasive Species Database (GISD). provides additional information on over 850 invasive alien species, specifying their impacts, pathways of introduction, and management measures. This information can build on the knowledge from the GRIIS database, helping countries develop measures that prevent the introduction of invasive alien species and manage any impacts from already introduced species.​

To view the final report online, please click here

For more information, please contact:
Elaine Paterson, Media and Communications Officer: or +44 (0)1223 331128



The women of Dumrithumka are leading by example

22 January 2018

Through a mixture of hard work during the day, and door-to-door campaigning in the evenings, the eleven women who make up the committee of Dumrithumka Adarsh Mahila Community Forest User Group—2017 BirdLife Nature's Heroes—have changed their community's attitude towards the forest they all depend on.

This story was written by Nick Langley, and originally featured on the Birdlife International website, to see the article in its original setting please click here.

Dumrithumka Adarsh Mahila—their name translates, roughly, as “the exemplary women of Dumrithumka”. The improvements to health and living standards they have brought about have inspired neighbouring forest villages to follow their example. At the same time, the transformation of habitat quality in the forests they manage has led Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) to recognise them as BirdLife Nature's Heroes.

“When it comes to integrating conservation, good governance and the development of sustainable local livelihoods, Nepal’s community forestry programme is regarded as one of the world’s success stories” says BCN's Kriti Nepal

Forest in Nepal is owned by the state, which often lacks capacity to monitor and manage it, leading to overuse of resources. Community Forest User Groups were introduced to empower local people to manage their forests, which are key to the livelihoods of many such communities, providing them with food, fuel, building materials and medicines.

BeforeAfter Satellite pictures of areas managed by Nepal's CFUGs show a steady restoration of tree cover. Under the advancing canopy of leaves, the roots of trees and undergrowth are reimposing their grip on the soil, and with the disappearance of bare, unstable hillsides, erosion and landslides are diminishing. Riverbanks once again blanketed with lush vegetation are less prone to undercut and collapse.

Inside the houses of forest user group communities, the air is cleaner. Improved cooking stoves have reduced smoke by up to 90%, and fewer people suffer respiratory diseases. Use of these stoves has cut demand for firewood by more than half, which as well as helping keep the hills green, means women spend less time gathering fuel, and more time on subsistence and livelihoods activities such as vegetable growing and the sale of non-timber products from the forest.

For reasons both cultural and economic, some of Nepal's community forest user groups were founded by women, and are led by women. Women traditionally carry out household tasks such as gathering firewood and fodder for livestock, while their menfolk are likely to be working abroad. (Opportunities to earn money at home are limited, and remittances from men working in India and elsewhere make up almost a quarter of Nepal's GDP.)

Established in 1998, DAMCFUG were beneficiaries of HIMALICA programme supported by Bird Conservation Nepal and ICIMOD between January 2014 and December 2016. Under BCN's guidance, the group's executive committee oversaw the implementation of actions such as restriction of overgrazing and replanting of forest, the installation of improved cooking stoves, and the promotion of home gardening.

Villagers undertake weeding and replacement of tree saplingsPrior to the intervention by the programme, the community was facing loss and destruction of land and resources through preventable disasters like landslides and floods. Sustainable land use and management, including restriction of overgrazing, has led to an increase in vegetation cover and root structure, protecting against erosion and increasing stability by binding the soil. Reforestation near streams has reduced bank erosion.

Among the trees and plants the women are helping to protect some of cultural value, such as Khayar (Senegalia catechu), Belpati (Aegle marmelos), Amla (Phylanthus emblica), and Sal tree (Shorea robusta), which are sources of food and medicinal bark and leaves, and trees which are targetted by illegal loggers, such as the globally threatened Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia). Globally threatened mammals such as Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and Leopard (Pantherapardus) occur in the forest.

“The majority of the population depends on the forest for their daily livelihood, and were facing scarcity due to degradation of the forest”,  explains Kriti Nepal.

“DAMCFUG played a major role in the long-term success of the conservation of their forest, by organising door-to-door awareness campaigns within the community about the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Community members were trained in the protection of ecosystem services and management of the forest. This enabled the community as a whole to use natural resources more efficiently and sustainably, minimising their dependence on help from state agencies.”

The promotion of home gardening has helped community members increase their income, and rely less on forest resources. Planting and regeneration of non-timber forest products such as bamboo (Dendrocalamus sp.) and broom grass (Thysanolaena maxima) has not only created extra income for the community, but provided additional protection against soil erosion.

By supporting fair and sustainable benefit-sharing, DAMCFUG has made a major contribution towards reducing inequalities. Following awareness training from BCN, their initiative has given the same access to resources to all community members, including people from different backgrounds and cultures. They have undertaken public education to sensitise the community to the rights of minorities and marginalized people, encouraging them to participate in all aspects of forest use and management.

Kamal Aryal, Natural Resources Management Analyst from ICIMOD says the initiative has empowered the poor and vulnerable by involving them in decision-making.
The protection and management of ecosystems has also offered a highly cost-effective mechanism for climate change mitigation. Enhancing and protecting essential life-supporting ecosystem services for the community will help them adapt to climate change.

Two neighbouring community forest user groups are now modelling themselves on DAMCFUG, with a view to the long-term conservation of their own part of the forest. In addition to their Nature's Heroes award, the women of DAMCFUG were singled out for praise by Nepal's government on World Environment Day 2016. Mr Agni Sapkota, the Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation, presented Mrs Kumari Alle, the chair of the group, with a letter of appreciation and a cash award of 25,000 Nepali rupees.



Satellite tracking app empowers communities to protect their own forest

22 January 2018
The Helmeted Hornbill (Critically Endangered) is one of innumerable bird species that will benefit from the Program © Bjorn Olesen

This year Birdlife International is launching an innovative new programme that uses satellite technology and a mobile phone app to help local people monitor their forest homes. The Asia-Pacific Forest Governance Project, led by BirdLife and funded by the European Union, aims to enhance the involvement of local communities in conservation and policy-making.

This story was written by Jessica Law, and originally featured on the Birdlife International website, to see the article in its original setting please click here.

Water drips from the green ceiling of leaves above you as you make your way along a forest path, barely visible to the untrained eye, but used for generations by your village. The undergrowth snags at your clothes as your feet break the rich, fragrant mulch of the soil. All is calm until you hear it – the sound you’ve been waiting to hear. A loud, maniacal, cackling laughter. But not human laughter – this is the laughter of the Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) .

As you reach into your pocket to record your finding, you get a notification on your phone. Far, far above the umbrella of green under which you are standing, a satellite has detected a bare spot in the canopy half a mile away. That’s strange – it wasn’t there before. You set off to investigate.

Local people are the answer

We already know that forests provide priceless services for the planet – but they are also people’s homes. And when it comes to gathering information, there is no substitute for local knowledge. Local people know the lie of the land and can see the health of the ecosystem first-hand. So it stands to reason that they should play an important role in monitoring and making decisions about the forest in which they live.

Papua New Guinean culture and conservation will go hand in hand © Mark Hanlin / Tenkile Conservation AllianceSadly, the power of local communities and indigenous people is often constrained by lack of technical knowledge, experience and political influence. Over the coming five years, Asia-Pacific Forest Governance Project plans to change that.

Because the tropical forests of Asia and the Western Pacific are special. Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines host over 154 million hectares of globally significant Biodiversity hotspots, many of them Key Biodiversity Areas. These havens house amazing Critically Endangered species such as the Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo Dendrolagus pulcherrimus of Papua New Guinea, and the Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax Vigil) of Malaysia.

The Asia-Pacific Forest Governance Project is empowering local people to manage and protect their own forest.

The Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo is found in the Toricelli Mountains of Papua New Guinea, one of the Program's key sites © Matt West But they are also under great threat from deforestation. That’s why the Forest Governance Project is training people on the ground, empowering them to manage and protect their own forest.

The satellite app watching over rainforests

If a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Maybe not, but with new state-of-the-art remote sensing technology, we can certainly see it. Forest Watcher is a revolutionary new app developed by Global Forest Watch, which uses satellites to watch over the earth’s forest canopies. When one pixel in their image changes, which could signify trees being felled, the app alerts the user so that they can respond.

Through collaboration between BirdLife and Global Forest Watch, this technology will be rolled out to local partners in the field. Their findings are then used to bring about real policy change – an approach that is truly local to global.

From the local eyes and ears on the forest floor, to the satellites above the treetops, the Forest Governance Project will ensure that these precious forests are protected from roots to canopy.

Find out more about the Forest Governance Project at

Between Roots & Canopy: Growing local involvement in forest governance and monitoring

Official title: Strengthening non-state actor involvement in forest governance in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea

Funded by: European Union

Lead Partner: BirdLife International

National Partners: Burung Indonesia (BirdLife Indonesia); Malaysian Nature Society (BirdLife Malaysia); Haribon Foundation (BirdLife the Philippines); Tenkile Conservation Alliance (Papua New Guinea).

Training and Techincal Partners: University of Papua New Guinea; Centre for International Development & Training



Ushering a bright future for nature conservation in Cambodia

22 January 2018
Vultures feeding on animal carcasses at a vulture restaurant in Cambodia. Photo: NatureLife Cambodia).

“People and nature can indeed live in harmony, and sustainable development is possible for our people” Dr. Srey Sunleang, NatureLife Cambodia.

When international non-governmental conservation organisations including BirdLife International, established a long-term partnership with the Cambodian Government more than a decade ago, there were virtually no national non-governmental organisations working on nature conservation in the country. Biodiversity conservation projects in Cambodia were usually led by international organisations.  To address the challenges of conserving Cambodia’s biodiversity and to encourage sustainable development at the grassroots level, there was a pressing need to develop the capacity of local and national conservation groups. 

NatureLife co-hosted a national workshop to designate Stung Sen wetland as Ramsar site.Photo: BirdLife International Cambodia.Officially established on 1 March 2017, NatureLife Cambodia is a newly formed national conservation NGO, made possible with technical support from BirdLife International Cambodia Programme and financial support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).  NatureLife Cambodia is now working in collaboration with other conservation NGOs to protect the country’s precious biodiversity.  In the long term, it aims to enhance local capacity and expertise in biodiversity conservation so that effective conservation interventions can be implemented in partnership with the government, as well as national and international conservation agencies. 

Institutional development is a key priority for NatureLife mature into a sustainable conservation organisation.  It has already prepared a 10-year strategic plan identifying several major areas for ensuring long-term sustainability. These include the maintenance of continuous financial support and the establishment of targeted conservation efforts.   NatureLife’s website and social media pages have since been launched to reach out to wider public. Meetings have been organised to introduce the work and objectives of NatureLife to government agencies, NGO networks and the wider donor community.  

Since its inception, NatureLife Cambodia has conducted a research trip at the Boeng Chhmar Ramsar Site in Kampong Thom Province to identify ecosystem services at the site and survey endangered species.  NatureLife co-organised a national consultative workshop on the conservation of Stung Sen Core Area wetlands in Phnom Penh, which was attended by local and national authorities, as well as various NGOs. Participants at the workshop were able to reach a consensus to endorse the Stung Sen Core Area and its surroundings as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.  The work at Stung Sen is making a remarkable progress and presently, only requires a final approval from the Prime Minister to complete this process.

Vulture awareness-raising event conducted by NatureLife Cambodia.Photo: NatureLife CambodiaNatureLife Cambodia also aims to bring nature closer to Cambodia’s youth and sees the building capacity of young people is a long-term investment into conservation in the country.  For example, talks on vulture conservation with students from several universities in Phnom Penh, and with school kids at the Siem Pang Wildlife Sanctuary in Stung Treng Province were organised during the International Vulture Awareness Day in September.  NatureLife has also worked together with BirdLife International and other expert groups to organise a workshop to develop an action plan for the declining River Tern, as well as organise Vulture Awareness Events with local communities.

“NatureLife Cambodia is immensely grateful for all the support that various governmental and non-governmental agencies have given us,” said Mr. Taing Porchhay, Chief Executive Officer of NatureLife Cambodia. “We aim to continue to spearhead nature conservation efforts in the country, and remain committed to protect sustainable livelihoods and the environment,” he added.

“We are happy to see the united spirit of NatureLife Cambodia’s founders and the commitment of its governing board members to conservation in the country,” Said Mr. Bou Vorsak, Cambodia Programme Manager of BirdLife International.

“Local people protecting nature in their own countries are a key to sustaining all life on this planet,” said James Tallant, Senior Programme Officer for IUCN Asia and Regional Implementation Team Manager for CEPF. “We are delighted to see NatureLife Cambodia’s many contributions as a young national NGO, and look forward to seeing more conservation successes in the future.” 

Founded in 2000, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a global leader in enabling civil society to participate in and benefit from conserving some of the world’s most critical ecosystems by providing grants for organisations to help protect biodiversity hotspots, Earth’s most biologically rich yet threatened areas. CEPF is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International (IUCN Member), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan (IUCN State Member), the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.

IUCN is leading the second phase of CEPF's work in the Indo-Burma hotspot, working together with the Myanmar Environment Rehabilitation-conservation Network (MERN) and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG) to form the CEPF Regional Implementation Team (RIT).



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