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Preventing the introduction of invasive species is the first line of defense against invasions. However, even the best prevention efforts will not stop all invasive species introductions. Early detection and rapid response (ED&RR) efforts increase the likelihood that invasions will be addressed successfully while populations are still localized and population levels are not beyond that which can be contained and eradicated. Once populations are widely established, all that might be possible is the partial mitigation of negative impacts. In addition, the costs associated with ED&RR efforts are typically far less than those of long-term invasive species management programs.
The charge of the National Invasive Species Council (Council) is to assist in the coordination of invasive species efforts. Because certain invasive species can spread rapidly, there is a critical need to coordinate ED&RR efforts. The 57 action items in the Council’s National Invasive Species Management Plan (Plan) provide a “blue-print” for coordinated action on invasive species (National Invasive Species Council. 2001. Meeting the Invasive Species Challenge: National Invasive Species Management Plan. 74pp. available at: www.Invasivespecies.gov). In the Plan, ED&RR is identified as a high priority. For example, Plan action items #23 and #24 deals with the development of guidelines and systems for the coordinated detection and response to incipient invasions. The Plan also calls for working with state, local, tribal, and private entities to draft proposals that will, among other things, provide permanent funding for ED&RR efforts.
The Council approved these guidelines in June 2003 to provide information to those who wish to establish or evaluate ED&RR systems for invasive species. They are based on the work of the federal and non-federal members of the ED&RR Subcommittee (see appendix 4) of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC) of the Council. The guidelines contain information from a from a wide range of subject matter experts, people with direct experience in ED&RR efforts, and stakeholders that included members of the ISAC and representatives of Council member agencies. Information was drawn from documents that analyze existing or proposed systems including but not limited to: work by the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW), a report by Jim Worrall of the U.S. Forest Service, the work of the Western Regional Panel of the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, the definition of “rapid response” developed by the Council, and information on ED&RR systems from New Zealand and Australia. It is anticipated that these guidelines (Version 1) will be revised as science, technology, and experience with systems and species advance.
The hallmarks of successful ED&RR efforts include: 1) potential threats are being identified in time to allow risk-mitigation measures to be taken; 2) new invasive species are being detected in time to allow efficient and environmentally sound decisions to be made; 3) responses to invasions are effective and environmentally sound and prevent the spread and permanent establishment of invasive species; 4) adequate and timely information is being provided to decision-makers, the public, and to trading partners concerned about the status of invasive species within an area; and 5) lessons learned from past efforts are being used to guide current and future efforts.
Detecting and responding to invasions requires a complex series of interlacing, coordinated, and sustained actions that can be grouped into three main categories: 1) Early Detection, 2) Rapid Assessment, and 3) Rapid Response. Actions may include: reviewing relevant legal authorities; coordinated planning; identification of high priority species and at-risk sites; routinely monitoring certain areas; prevention and containment efforts; surveillance, detection, and reporting activities including data collection and management; the collection, identification, and storage of voucher specimens; determining if newly-detected invasive populations are still localized; determining the relative and potential risk associated with an introduction; priority setting; sharing resources across jurisdictional boundaries; monitoring, treating and removing populations; restoring habitats; coordinated public communication efforts; training volunteers and professionals in detection, identification, and removal techniques; sharing information; and developing case studies. In addition, research, adequate staffing and funds, and effective public communication are essential to support ED&RR activities. The following identifies components of early detection, rapid assessment, and rapid response systems that experts consider either essential (i.e., must be present) or important to a system's success. Additional information is provided in the appendices.