Invasive alien species (IAS) are animals and plants that are introduced accidentally or deliberately into a natural environment where they are not normally found, with serious negative consequences for their new environment. They are a major threat to native plants and animals in Europe and are one of the five major causes of biodiversity loss. They can also cause significant adverse impacts on the economy (their economic impact in the EU was estimated at around EUR 12 billion per year) as well as human health, such as severe allergies and burns.
The EU aims to prevent, minimise and mitigate the adverse impacts posed by these species on native biodiversity and ecosystem services. Rules also aim to limit social and economic damage.
The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 contains the commitment to manage established invasive alien species and decrease the number of Red List species they threaten by 50% by 2030.
In the EU
The Invasive Alien Species Regulation (Regulation (EU) 1143/2014) includes a set of measures to be taken across the EU in relation to invasive alien species. The core of the Regulation is the list of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern (Union List). The species included on this list are subject to restrictions and measures set out in the Regulation. These include restrictions on keeping, importing, selling, breeding, growing and releasing into the environment.
Member States are required to
- take action on pathways of unintentional introduction (i.e. prevention)
- take measures for the early detection and rapid eradication of these species
- manage species that are already widely spread in their territory
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/1203 updating the list of invasive alien species of Union concern
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1262 updating the list of invasive alien species of Union concern
- Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/968 with regard to risk assessments in relation to invasive alien species
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/1454 specifying the technical format for reporting by the Member States
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1263 updating the list of invasive alien species of Union concern
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1141 adopting a list of invasive alien species of Union concern
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/145 adopting the format of the document serving as evidence for the permit issued by the competent authorities of Member States
The third update of the Union list entered into force on 2 August 2022. A consolidated version of the Union list is available here.
This brochure includes a short description of all invasive alien species of Union concern, offering brief, non-technical and informal summaries of their origin, their present distribution in the EU, how they threaten our native biodiversity, and how the applicable restrictions and obligations will help mitigate their negative impacts.
Both the European Commission and the Member States can propose additional species for inclusion on the Union list, according to Article 4(4) of the Regulation, including a risk assessment. All risk assessments are available here.
An overview of risk assessments under preparation is available here. A horizon scanning was commissioned in support of the selection process. It cannot be regarded as the list that the Commission will be proposing, nor to represent the opinion of the Commission.
Proposed risk assessments are first reviewed by the Scientific Forum. It provides an opinion on whether the risk assessments are robust and fit for purpose, according to an agreed procedure. While the Scientific Forum reviews these risk assessments, stakeholders are invited to submit additional evidence that could improve the risk assessments. The risk assessments currently under review by the Scientific Forum are available here.
Proposals for which the underpinning risk assessments receive a positive opinion from the Scientific Forum are forwarded to the IAS Committee. It examines the compliance of the proposed species with the criteria for listing (cf. Art 4(3) and 4(6) of the IAS Regulation). The approved risk assessments ready for the opinion of the IAS Committee are available here.
The Commission makes the draft proposal for an update of the Union list available for public feedback. Having considered this feedback, the Commission submits the final proposal for an update of the Union list to the IAS Committee. Any update of the Union list is subject to the positive opinion of the IAS Committee.
- The initial Union list entered into force on 3 August 2016 (Press release and questions & answers)
- The first update of the Union list entered into force on 2 August 2017 (Press release)
- The second update of the Union list entered into force on 15 August 2019. A consolidated version of the Union list is available here.
Main documents produced for the first comprehensive review of the Union list according to Article 4.2 of Regulation (EU) No 1143/2014
In 2021, the Commission published the first report on the application of the Invasive Alien Species Regulation. The report finds that the Regulation is delivering on its objectives - prevention and management measures, information sharing and awareness of the problem have improved. Yet implementation is a challenge in several respects. Find out more in the press release.
The Commission is assisted by a number of bodies in implementing the IAS Regulation.
- The Committee on IAS assists in the preparation of implementing acts foreseen by the IAS Regulation, mainly the adoption and updates of the list of invasive alien species of Union concern. It consists of representatives from all Member States.
- The Invasive Alien Species Expert Group (IASEG) supports the implementation of the IAS Regulation beyond the Commission’s implementation powers. It consists of representatives from all Member States. More information on its activities can be found here.
- The Scientific Forum on IAS provides advice on scientific questions related to the implementation of the IAS Regulation. It consists of representatives of the scientific community appointed by the Member States. More information on its activities can be found here.
- The Working Group on IAS assists the Commission and facilitates coordination. It consists of interested stakeholders and Member State representatives. More information on its activities can be found here.
Support to implementation
Several information documents have been developed to support EU countries to implement the Regulation. These do not necessarily represent the views of the European Commission.
- Categories of pathways of introduction and spread of IAS
- Prioritising Pathways of Introduction and Pathway Action Plans
- Legal provisions on soil import
Early detection and rapid eradication
- Surveillance of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern
- Identification guide for customs on invasive alien species of Union concern
- Identification guide for surveillance on invasive alien species of Union concern
- High resolution identification pictures
European Alien Species Information Network (EASIN)
Species Search and Mapping tool
IAS notification system
Invasive Alien Species Europe App
For Europeans to help monitor invasive alien species in their region and become ‘citizen scientists’. Download the app here: Apple iTunes StoreGoogle Play Store
Studies and publications
- Manual for the management of vertebrate invasive alien species of Union concern – incorporating animal welfare
- EU invasive alien species policy preparation
- Risk assessment of listed species
- Risk assessment of IAS not listed
- Reports showing the baseline distribution of the species on the Union list published by the Joint Research Centre can be found here.
Community page on the EU Science Hub, LIFE Programme
Related topics: Nature and biodiversity
Related strategies: EU biodiversity strategy to 2030
Related Commission priorities: European Green Deal
- Brochure introducing the IAS regulation
- 2016 Brochure on Invasive Alien Species
- Managing invasive alien species to protect wild pollinators
- Interaction between the IAS Regulation and the Nature Directives
- Regional Sea Conventions and invasive alien species
- Invasive alien species native in a part of the Union
- Avoidable invasions
For questions about EU action on invasive alien species, please contact ENV-IAS@ec.europa.eu.