SEFINS (Safeguarding the Environment From Invasive Non-Native Species) is a new European 'cluster' project, working to manage and increase awareness of invasive non-native species (INS) in the Two Seas Programme area. The project aims to build upon the techniques and results of the previous Two Seas Projects RINSE (Reducing the Impacts of Non-native Species in Europe) and MEMO (Mnemiopsis Ecology and Modelling: Observation of an invasive comb jelly in the North Sea), whilst also drawing on experiences from the Interreg IVA grensregio Vlaanderen - Nederland project Invexo. By bringing these projects together, SEFINS creates a valuable network of expertise across the 'TwoSeas', combining knowledge of invasive species across terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. The SEFINS conference was held in Norwich on 24 September. This event attracted over 100 delegates and offered a unique opportunity to hear international experts from a range of backgrounds sharing their knowledge on the effective management of invasive non-native species (INS) inEurope. The event focused on ‘Bridging the Gap’ between research, policy and action but also in an important, but frequently overlooked habitat - the estuarine environment. A wide variety of hot topics such as risk management and citizen science were covered and interactive delegate workshops promoted discussion on how to better tackle the challenge of invasive species in estuaries. A total of 12 presentations were given by specialists representing a wide range of research institutes, policy and decision makers, managers, non-governmental organisations and local government, available to view online here.
Session 1: the evolution of SEFINS: Martin Horlock, the Senior Biodiversity Officer at Norfolk County Council opened the conference, welcoming delegates to Norfolkand outlining the event programme. The first session consisted of talks describing the evolution of SEFINS. Katy Owen (Norfolk County Council) began by describing the formation of SEFINS from three previous Interreg projects and introducing the ideas underpinning ‘Bridging the Gap’. Johan Robbens (ILVO) gave an overview of the MEMO project, which targeted the marine INSMnemiopsis leidyi. Tim Adrieans (INBO) described the aims and achievements of Invexo, another project within the SEFINS cluster which focused on invasive plant and animal species inBelgium and theNetherlands. Michael Sutton-Croft (Norfolk County Council) closed the first session by outlining RINSE, the final project within the SEFINS cluster.
Session 2: the themes: After a short break and an opportunity to view posters and displays from RINSE, MEMO and Invexo, the conference resumed with an overview of the key themes essential to tackling invasive species, developed during Phase 1 of the SEFINS project. The leader of each theme introduced a keynote speaker; a guest expert invited to talk and share their thoughts on the topic. Céline Fontaine (CPIE Val d’Authie) introduced Heather Sugden (NewcastleUniversity) and her talk on the theme of ‘Citizen Science and Awareness Raising’. Heather was involved in the highly successful citizen science project ‘The Big Sea Survey’ and her presentation provided many insightful points and useful advice for future projects. Bram D’hondt (INBO) leads the theme ‘Data and Inventories’. He introduced Quentin Groom (MeiseBotanical Garden) who gave a fascinating insight into the issues surrounding data sharing and the international platforms available to facilitate this. Johan Robbens (ILVO) introduced Sonia Vanderhoeven (Belgian Biodiversity Platform) to speak on the theme of ‘Risk Management and Impact Advice’. She underlined the importance of a functional interface between science and policy, and demonstrated the Belgian approach to INS management. Finally, Johan van Valkenburg (NVWA), leader of the ‘Knowledge Transfer, Training and Advice’ theme introduced Olaf Booy (GB NNSS). Olaf explained the differences between vertical and horizontal knowledge transfer, underlining the importance of each for different sectors of INS management.
Session 3: looking forwards: After a break for lunch and an opportunity to network, the first afternoon session focused on looking forwards and future work. Olaf Booy gave another presentation, this time detailing the new legislative tools now available for tackling INS inEurope. Sander Wijnhoven (NIOZ) identified the gap in INS research and management within estuarine habitats and explained why these areas are frequently excluded from freshwater and marine studies.
Workshop sessions: These interactive workshop sessions were based on the four themes previously described and were designed to utilise the knowledge and expertise of the delegates to shape the future of the SEFINS project. Delegates were divided into six groups and given an hour to discuss four questions centred on ‘Bridging the Gap’. The questions and a summary of delegate responses are available to view here.
Session 4: cross-border working: The afternoon session resumed with an overview of the importance of cross-border working in tackling invasive species. Karen Gibson, Partnership and Delivery Manager at Norfolk County Council, demonstrated the benefits of an outward looking, collaborative approach to dealing with INS across Europe. This was followed by a presentation from Michelle Armstrong (Interreg IVA Two Seas) detailing the opportunities offered by the upcoming 2014-20 cross-border programme. The conference was closed by David Collinson, Assistance Director of Environment and Public Protection at Norfolk County Council.