The urgent need for evidence based policy in invasive species management

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Hundreds of invasive species experts gathered last week, 23-27
October, in Qingdao China at the 2nd International Congress on
Biological Invasions. High on the agenda was how policy makers can
respond to the accelerating risk posed by invasive species as
international trade increases and climate change opens up new
opportunities for invasion.

In a session chaired by Prof. Daniel Simberloff on ‘Approaches in the
International Policy Arena’, CABI was given the key note speaker
position to showcase the contribution that systematic reviews can make
in converting scientific evidence into practical evidence-based policy.

Systematic reviews are a rigorous and unbiased methodology which
gather together all evidence on a particular policy-relevant question.
They allow policy makers to quickly know what evidence exists, what it
says and of what quality the evidence is, helping them to set priorities
and direct funding based on a true evaluation of all of the evidence.
Systematic reviews are quickly becoming the gold standard method for
evidence based policy.

CABI, a co-sponsor of the event, presented the method to the invasive
species community via an example of its own systematic review on the
impact of invasive species on US listed threatened species.

From individual studies and observations it has been clear for a long
time that invasive species can have catastrophic impacts on threatened
species but without the body of evidence being collated together it has
been very hard for policy makers to know how to prioritise efforts and
to focus limited budgets and resource efforts.

The systematic review allows policy makers to see all of the evidence
together and set priorities by taxonomic group of which invasive
species to manage and which threatened species need protection efforts.
It also highlights gaps in the evidence and raises a challenge to the
scientific community of the need to improve data collection methods, in
particular better recoding of observational data.

Systematic reviews are a powerful tool in providing evidence-based
policy and may prove key in answering some of the fundamental questions
on pathways, mechanism, impacts and costs, which are at the forefront of
the challenges faced by policy makers. By showcasing the use of
systematic reviews to the invasive species community it is hoped that
their use will be more widely implemented in the field and can lead the
way for more policy decisions to be based on scientific evidence.

By Holly Wright, CABI Systematic Reviewer

Photo: Prof.
Daniel Simberloff speaking at the ICBI plenary
session

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