International Day for Biological Diversity

The theme for the International Day on Biological Diversity (IDB) in 2009 is invasive alien species (IAS) - one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, and to the ecological and economic well-being of society and the planet.

Designation of IDB 2009 on the theme of invasive alien species provides Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and those dealing with IAS, opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and increase practical action to tackle the problem.

What are Invasive Alien Species?

Invasive alien species are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health. In particular, they impact adversely upon biodiversity, including decline or elimination of native species - through competition, predation, or transmission of pathogens - and the disruption of local ecosystems and ecosystem functions.

Invasive alien species, introduced and/or spread outside their natural habitats, have affected native biodiversity in almost every ecosystem type on earth and are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Since the 17th century, invasive alien species have contributed to nearly 40% of all animal extinctions for which the cause is known (CBD, 2006). The problem continues to grow at great socio-economic, health and ecological cost around the world. Invasive alien species exacerbate poverty and threaten development through their impact on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural systems, which are an important basis of peoples’ livelihoods in developing countries. This damage is aggravated by climate change, pollution, habitat loss and human-induced disturbance.

Marine Invasive Species in the Wider Caribbean Region


The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) encompasses two ‘biodiversity hotspots’: the Caribbean and the Mesoamerican, both with high species endemicity. Invasive alien species (IAS) are increasingly being seen as a threat to indigenous biodiversity. Little is known about marine invasive species (MIS) compared to terrestrial ones. Ships’ ballast water (BW) is a major invasion pathway.

In order to start filling this knowledge gap on MIS, UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) commissioned CABI’s Caribbean and Latin American Regional Centre (CLARC) to collate information on national and regional capacities and experiences with MIS, including BW, management, as a baseline against which future projects can be proposed as well as assessed. (Full report available here)

A total number of 118 MIS were recorded, led by fishes (39) and arthropods (31).

A needs assessment indicated that:

  • Awareness-raising activities are necessary in all countries at policy, planning and implementation and research levels
  • St. Kitts and Nevis is the only country in the WCR to have signed on to the Ballast Water Convention (IMO, 2004). Other countries need to consider acceding to the Convention in order to access funding, technical advice and other support
  • There is a need for fundamental capacity building at national / regional levels, taking  into consideration existing experience and capacity from relevant / related areas. Co-ordination mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure that this is undertaken and followed through
  • Available infrastructure needs to be upgraded and adapted to accommodate MIS / BW work, both at national and regional level
  • Linkages need to be established among ongoing and planned programmes in MIS management in the WCR region and beyond. Existing networks (electronic groups, listservers) should be revitalized as necessary
  • A Regional Action Plan with stakeholder participation is needed to link together individual national and / or sub-regional plans to regional and global plans, in order to maximize synergies and narrow gaps and differences.

Additional information:

» Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
» UNEP Resources on Biodiversity
» International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)
» Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
» Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP)
» The Green Wave
» Plant for the Planet - The Billion Tree Campaign