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      Advancing impact assessments of non-native species: strategies for strengthening the evidence-base

      , , , ,

      NeoBiota

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          The numbers and impacts of non-native species (NNS) continue to grow. Multiple ranking protocols have been developed to identify and manage the most damaging species. However, existing protocols differ considerably in the type of impact they consider, the way evidence of impacts is included and scored, and in the way the precautionary principle is applied. These differences may lead to inconsistent impact assessments. Since these protocols are considered a main policy tool to promote mitigation efforts, such inconsistencies are undesirable, as they can affect our ability to reliably identify the most damaging NNS, and can erode public support for NNS management. Here we propose a broadly applicable framework for building a transparent NNS impact evidence base. First, we advise to separate the collection of evidence of impacts from the act of scoring the severity of these impacts. Second, we propose to map the collected evidence along a set of distinguishing criteria: where it is published, which methodological approach was used to obtain it, the relevance of the geographical area from which it originates, and the direction of the impact. This procedure produces a transparent and reproducible evidence base which can subsequently be used for different scoring protocols, and which should be made public. Finally, we argue that the precautionary principle should only be used at the risk management stage. Conditional upon the evidence presented in an impact assessment, decision-makers may use the precautionary principle for NNS management under scientific uncertainty regarding the likelihood and magnitude of NNS impacts. Our framework paves the way for an improved application of impact assessments protocols, reducing inconsistencies and ultimately enabling more effective NNS management.

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          Most cited references 32

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          Amphibian fungal panzootic causes catastrophic and ongoing loss of biodiversity

          Anthropogenic trade and development have broken down dispersal barriers, facilitating the spread of diseases that threaten Earth’s biodiversity. We present a global, quantitative assessment of the amphibian chytridiomycosis panzootic, one of the most impactful examples of disease spread, and demonstrate its role in the decline of at least 501 amphibian species over the past half-century, including 90 presumed extinctions. The effects of chytridiomycosis have been greatest in large-bodied, range-restricted anurans in wet climates in the Americas and Australia. Declines peaked in the 1980s, and only 12% of declined species show signs of recovery, whereas 39% are experiencing ongoing decline. There is risk of further chytridiomycosis outbreaks in new areas. The chytridiomycosis panzootic represents the greatest recorded loss of biodiversity attributable to a disease.
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            Calibration of FISK, an invasiveness screening tool for nonnative freshwater fishes.

            Adapted from the weed risk assessment (WRA) of Pheloung, Williams, and Halloy, the fish invasiveness scoring kit (FISK) was proposed as a screening tool for freshwater fishes. This article describes improvements to FISK, in particular the incorporation of confidence (certainty/uncertainty) ranking of the assessors' responses, and reports on the calibration of the score system, specifically: determination of most appropriate score thresholds for classifying nonnative species into low-, medium-, and high-risk categories, assessment of the patterns of assessors' confidences in their responses in the FISK assessments. Using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves, FISK was demonstrated to distinguish accurately (and with statistical confidence) between potentially invasive and noninvasive species of nonnative fishes, with the statistically appropriate threshold score for high-risk species scores being >/=19. Within the group of species classed as high risk using this new threshold, a "higher risk" category could be visually identified, at present consisting of two species (topmouth gudgeon Pseudorasbora parva and gibel carp Carassius gibelio). FISK represents a useful and viable tool to aid decision- and policymakers in assessing and classifying freshwater fishes according to their potential invasiveness.
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              Science and decisions: advancing risk assessment.

              At the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Research Council (NRC) recently completed a major report, Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment, that is intended to strengthen the scientific basis, credibility, and effectiveness of risk assessment practices and subsequent risk management decisions. The report describes the challenges faced by risk assessment and the need to consider improvements in both the technical analyses of risk assessments (i.e., the development and use of scientific information to improve risk characterization) and the utility of risk assessments (i.e., making assessments more relevant and useful for risk management decisions). The report tackles a number of topics relating to improvements in the process, including the design and framing of risk assessments, uncertainty and variability characterization, selection and use of defaults, unification of cancer and noncancer dose-response assessment, cumulative risk assessment, and the need to increase EPA's capacity to address these improvements. This article describes and summarizes the NRC report, with an eye toward its implications for risk assessment practices at EPA.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                NeoBiota
                NB
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-2488
                1619-0033
                October 29 2019
                October 29 2019
                : 51
                : 41-64
                Article
                10.3897/neobiota.51.35940
                © 2019

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