Evaluation of online information sources on alien species in Europe: the need of harmonization and integration.
Animals, databases, Europe, Factual, Fresh Water, fungi, Internet, Introduced species, Plants, Seawater
Europe is severely affected by alien invasions, which impact biodiversity, ecosystem services, economy, and human health. A large number of national, regional, and global online databases provide information on the distribution, pathways of introduction, and impacts of alien species. The sufficiency and efficiency of the current online information systems to assist the European policy on alien species was investigated by a comparative analysis of occurrence data across 43 online databases. Large differences among databases were found which are partially explained by variations in their taxonomical, environmental, and geographical scopes but also by the variable efforts for continuous updates and by inconsistencies on the definition of "alien" or "invasive" species. No single database covered all European environments, countries, and taxonomic groups. In many European countries national databases do not exist, which greatly affects the quality of reported information. To be operational and useful to scientists, managers, and policy makers, online information systems need to be regularly updated through continuous monitoring on a country or regional level. We propose the creation of a network of online interoperable web services through which information in distributed resources can be accessed, aggregated and then used for reporting and further analysis at different geographical and political scales, as an efficient approach to increase the accessibility of information. Harmonization, standardization, conformity on international standards for nomenclature, and agreement on common definitions of alien and invasive species are among the necessary prerequisites.