Mixed messages from multiple information sources on invasive species: a case of too much of a good thing?


Philip E. Hulme, The Bio-Protection Research Centre, PO Box 84, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand.


Aim  The increasing number and availability of online databases of alien species beg a question of their comparability given most do not adopt standard criteria in the definition of species status or taxonomic treatment and vary in their comprehensiveness. In this study, we compare the consistency of two major European databases for the regions they have in common. We assess whether they use consistent terminology to classify species status, provide similar taxonomic classification and coverage, deliver comparable estimates of alien richness per country and identify comparable correlates of alien richness.

Location  Northern Europe.

Methods  Data on the total number of alien species as well as the number of established alien species were extracted from the online databases DAISIE and NOBANIS for 13 European countries and classified into comparable taxonomic groups. Analyses across countries examined trends in alien species richness, correlations among taxonomic groups and the explanatory power of population density, country area and per capita GDP on alien species richness.

Results  Alien species richness, intertaxon correlations and the significance of individual drivers of invasion were all strongly database dependent. Differences were more marked for total numbers of aliens than established aliens. Over all taxonomic groups, DAISIE had lower species richness and fewer significant intertaxon correlations but presented a greater number of significant explanatory models of alien species richness. Trends in species richness were not generally correlated between the two databases with human population density being a more important driver in DAISIE while country area had greater explanatory power in NOBANIS.

Main conclusions  Considerable caution should be applied when collating data from different databases because often their underlying structure and content may differ markedly. For Europe, the analysis indicates that having two contrasting databases is not an ideal basis for implementing invasive species policy and moves should be made soon to establish a central pan-European database.