Malta and Sicily invasive species control project kicks off

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Buskett Gardens | University of Malta

With invasive alien species (IAS) being the second most important factor threatening global biodiversity, including the Maltese Islands, the preservation of our organisms, including plants, animals and even microorganisms has been an environmental priority for government, researchers and environmentalists who are all constantly working to combat accidental introductions, naturalization of invasive alien species, and plant pathogens harmful to native species.

FAST – Fight Alien Species Transborder, which is part of INTERREG VA ITALIA-MALTA 2014-2020, was launched remotely on April 16, 2021, in the presence of the Sicilian and Maltese partners and contributors to this project, including the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Planning, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Welfare, University of Malta through its Institute of Land Systems , the Plant Protection Directorate of Malta, the Environmental Resources Authority and Ambjent Malta.

The project recognizes that the issue of invasive alien species (IAS) needs to be addressed on a large scale and using common methodologies in transboundary areas. The project will attempt to control established invasive alien species and reduce the number of Red List species, which currently stands at 1,872 in Europe, of which 354 are invasive alien species.

FAST, which will run for 30 months and end in May 2023, will publish a comprehensive online database of alien species found in Sicily and Malta, publish a catalog of alien species in both countries, produce informative scientific publications, post a data video through a series of drone images and develop regulatory suggestions based on identifying the main alien pathways. This project, through its implementation, will also support Malta’s National Biodiversity and Action Plan and, at a broader level, the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030.

The role of the University of Malta in this project, whose local principal investigator is Professor David Mifsud, whose work will be supported by a team of researchers and a research support officer, will be to monitor, evaluate and to scientifically determine the SAI.

During the kick-off meeting, Professor Mifsud noted that with other partners he has worked hard for the past five years to get this project started, and expressed his gratitude for moving to the start-up stage. implemented.

Professor Mifsud explained that three particular areas of the Maltese Islands have been identified for the monitoring and evaluation of part of the project, namely the boundaries of Buskett and Girgenti, Il-Maghluq ta ‘Marsaskala and the boundaries of Xlendi and Wied Kantra. All three are Nature 2000 sites, as are the four corresponding sites chosen in Sicily, which means that they are part of a network of breeding and resting sites for rare and endangered species.

Professor Mifsud also informed those who followed that the 10% encounter of non-native organisms tends to become invasive as they have left their original habitat for other places. This process has continued due to the rapid effects of climate change, trade, tourism and other human activities. Once moved, these species will breed in the new territory and therefore interfere with local flora and fauna.

“This is in particular why we need to raise more awareness on the issue and document the changes that are happening in front of us – we need to act quickly to help prevent biodiversity loss as much as possible,” he said.

For more information on the progress of this project, you can visit the dedicated website and Facebook page.

FAST is co-financed by the INTERREG framework and the European regional development funds to the tune of nearly 2 million euros.

This content has been supplied by the University of Malta

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