Protecting Native Plants and Species from their Invasive Cousins

On February 18, 2016, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released an interdepartmental report, Safeguarding America’s Lands and Waters from Invasive Species: A National Framework for Early Detection and Rapid Response. The report proposes to stop the spread of invasive species through early detection and rapid response (EDRR) actions.

An invasive species is defined as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Invasive species are often more resilient than their native cousins and can quickly outcompete them for food, space, and water. They pose a significant ecological threat to ecosystems and habitats. Early detection is imperative to control and (where possible) eradicate the long-term costs, economic burden and ecological harm invasive species have on communities.

The DOI has been actively engaged in prevention, early detection, rapid response, control and management, and research related to invasive species for nearly 60 years. To help further control invasive species, the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) was formed in 1999. NISC is an interagency body created by Executive Order 13112 to provide leadership and create a national framework for the early detection of and rapid response to invasive species.

The NISC is working with states and tribes to build on existing programs to detect, identify, and eradicate invasive species populations before they spread and cause significant harm to priority landscapes and aquatic areas. Priority landscapes and aquatic areas are those lands and waters (freshwater, coastal, and marine) identified by federal, state, or tribal entities as areas of importance for natural resource stewardship, biodiversity, or conservation. To support the NISC, the report recommends the following five steps to implement a national EDRR framework:

  1. Establish a National EDRR Task Force.
  2. Convene high-level decision makers and senior budget officials to form more effective funding.
  3. Incorporate actions into NISC agency programs and partnerships on national, regional, and local scales.
  4. Advance pilot projects and initiatives in priority landscapes and aquatic areas.
  5. Foster the development and application of innovative and scientific approaches to EDRR.

The principles of an EDRR Framework are divided into components that focus on:

  • Preparedness: Establishes the plans, coordination networks, tools, training, and necessary resources for the deployment of detection, rapid assessment, and rapid response actions.
  • Early Detection: Provides initial evidence on the occurrence of a potentially invasive species and provides the mechanisms for reporting and verifying species identification.
  • Rapid Assessment: Determines the distribution and abundance of the species occurrence and evaluates its potential risks with regard to environmental, health, and economic impacts.
  • Rapid Response: Applies a set of coordinated actions to eradicate the founding population of an invasive species before it is established or spreads to the extent that eradication is no longer feasible.

Eradication of the targeted invasive species is the primary goal of the EDRR process. The EDRR will help identify the criteria to determine priority landscapes and aquatic areas in cooperation with states and tribal partners. The EDRR is a multi-phased approach decided by science-based assessments. The lead agency will share lessons learned with other agencies, partners, and stakeholders, including sharing relevant data with appropriate invasive species databases.

For more information, see the full report here.