First EU list of invasive alien species


Invasive alien species are a serious and growing problem across the European Union. They are a major cause of biodiversity loss, inflicting economic and social damage that costs the European economy over EUR 12 billion per year.

The EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species, which entered into force on 1 January 2015, provides a Europe-wide framework for action to prevent, minimise and mitigate their adverse impacts on biodiversity, the economy and human health. A list of species of concern to the whole Union is at its core, and it was approved by a Committee of Member States’ representatives.

The Union List contains 37 species that can cause damage on a scale that justifies dedicated measures across the EU.

This so-called “Union list” targets species that cause such damage in affected Member States that it justifies dedicated measures across the EU. Species are only listed if measures are likely to prevent, minimise or mitigate their adverse impact. Another obligatory criterion for including a species on the list is the existence of a scientifically robust risk assessment.

The first Union list of 37 species was adopted by the European Commission in July 2016. It includes well-known invasive flora and fauna, such as the red swamp crayfish or Procambarus clarkii from North America, the yellow-legged hornet or Vespa velutina from Asia and the water hyacinth or Eichhornia crassipes from South America, as well as more discrete yet highly invasive and damaging species like the African curly waterweed or Lagarosiphon major.

What happens now?

Once a species has been placed on the Union list, the Regulation requires three types of measures to be taken by Member States and the EU:

  • prevention measures to stop the species from entering the EU intentionally or unintentionally;
  • early detection and rapid eradication measures to prevent it from becoming established; and
  • management measures to eradicate or at least contain already established species.

Regular updates of the Union List are foreseen as new species risk assessments are completed.

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Nature and biodiversity