About the project

The project Researching Invasive Species of Kýpros (RIS-Ky) was launched in April 2017 and is looking at the impacts of invasive alien species in a variety of habitats (terrestrial, freshwater and marine) and will run for two years. The project focuses on the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) in Cyprus and it is funded by the Darwin Initiative. In Cyprus, the UKOTs are known as Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs), and have their own administration and civil government.

Who's involved?

The partners are the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the Joint Services Health Unit (JSHU) at Akrotiri, and the University of Cyprus (UCY). Many other stakeholders will be involved throughout the project. For example, our recent Horizon Scanning exercise involved people from across Cyprus, the Mediterranean, and further afield. Core team members can be found on the Project Members page.

Background

The spread of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) represents a threat to native species and human health around the world. The SBA of Akrotiri includes the largest aquatic system in Cyprus, protected as a habitat of international importance within the Mediterranean (Ramsar Convention) and an Important Bird Area. Areas dominated by alien species (such as the Akrotiri forest) may favour pathogen vectors (mosquitoes, rats), and act as a source of invasive species affecting surrounding habitats. For example, Port Jackson wattle (Acacia saligna)planted commonly for wood production and other purposes, is prevalent across the inhabited areas of the Island. This species has detrimental impacts on native biodiversity through out-competing native plants. Surveys of this species have already been undertaken and more work is planned during the course of this project. In freshwater habitats, Gambusia fish introduced to control mosquitoes have also spread and may be having impacts on native species. In addition, the biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea is changing dramatically through biological invasions, with increased introduction rates of alien species, many of which have been introduced through the Suez Canal. The recent enlargement of this channel is likely to facilitate the spread of Red Sea species, affecting both biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Project aims

The UKOT biodiversity strategy prioritises: (i) obtaining data on the location and status of biodiversity interests and the human activities affecting biodiversity to inform the preparation of policies and management plans (including baseline survey and subsequent monitoring); and, (ii) preventing the establishment of invasive alien species, and eradicating or controlling species that have already become established. These are also priorities for the SBA government in Cyprus and, through surveillance and improved biosecurity, our project will address both.

Our programme of work will be carried out in three work packages (WPs) that will contribute to achieving sustainable surveillance of current and potential future IAS on the SBAs in Cyprus, and the surrounding areas.

WP1 Horizon scanning: We undertook a Horizon Scanning workshop in April 2017 at the Akrotiri Environmental Education and Information Centre, with scientists with expertise on IAS from Cyprus and across Europe. The workshop generated a list of species predicted to be of threat to the SBA and Cyprus. These species were prioritised based on their potential future impacts on biodiversity and human health. This list will be published in an academic journal shortly.

WP2 Surveillance and modelling of species distributions: This work will continue throughout the project and will be based upon systematic surveys already carried out in the SBAs, as well as new work in the freshwater and marine environments.

WP3 Biosecurity and capacity building: As with any project, success is linked to the understanding of the communities who live in affected areas. We are also focusing engaging with local communities and discussing our work, highlighting the challenges faced by all of us from urban and agricultural development, increased trade networks and changing climate in relation to IAS.

If you would like to know more about any of this work, please contact the Project Manager Jodey Peyton.

Lake Akrotiri from the viewing platform of the AEEC.
Lake Akrotiri from the viewing platform of the AEEC.