EU Science Hub

Aliens in Europe. An Open Approach to Involve More People in Invasive Species Detection


Amplified by the phenomenon of globalisation, such as increased human mobility and the worldwide shipping of goods, we observe an increasing spread of animals and plants outside their native habitats. A few of these ‘aliens' have negative impacts on their environment, including threats to local biodiversity, agricultural productivity, and human health. Our work addresses these threats, particularly within the European Union (EU), where a related legal framework has been established. We follow an open and participatory approach that allows more people to share their experiences of invasive alien species (IAS) in their surroundings. Over the past three years, we developed a mobile phone application, together with the underlying data management and validation infrastructure, which allows smartphone users to report a selected list of IAS. We put quality assurance and data integration mechanisms into place that allows the uptake of information into existing official systems in order to make it accessible to the relevant policy-making at EU level. This article summarises our scientific methodology and technical approach, explains our decisions, and provides an outlook to the future of IAS monitoring involving citizens and utilising the latest technological advancements. Last but not least we emphasise on software design for reuse, within the domain of IAS monitoring, but also for supporting citizen science apps more generally. Whereas much could already be achieved, many scientific, technical and organizational challenges still remain to be addressed before data can be seamlessly shared and integrated. Here, we particularly highlight issues that emerge in an international setting, which involves many different stakeholders.