Educational Capacity Strengthening for Risk Managment of Non-native Aquatic Species in Western Balkans - RiskMan

WP3 : Implementation of Risk Management Model for Western Balkans - Executive Summary

WP3 : Implementation of Risk Management Model for Western Balkans - Executive Summary

WP3 : Implementation of Risk Management Model for Western Balkans

Through this work package (WP), we wanted to make an opportunity for stakeholders to understand the basic concepts of risk management. Nowadays, Risk management is an important research theme because the risks are always present in industrial activity. The complexity of the industrial activities (aquaculture, aquarium, fisheries, shipping, etc.) and the risk of escaping/transmission non-native (NN) species from the aquaculture areas promote the emergence of risks that must be considered in the decision process. For this reason, we have developed this WP to clarify the basics of risk management through a short new suggestion of literature review for risk management. Our justification for this attempt is that this area is the most discussed in our days and we have tried to develop the most recent management plan about NN species for the West Balkans. So the assumption of the WP3 is to provide to the Western Balkan Partners useful tools to be able to comprehend the effects of NN species on the economy, education, and society. The risks connected with this WP is the lack of availability and accessibility of current policies and educational practices and principles in the field of risk assessment of NN aquatic species. 

The first two parts of the WP3 aimed to perform a literature review on the current knowledge on the risk management models in the framework of the concepts of non-native species, risk, risk management and the methodology to perform these kinds of models. It appeared in the literature that decision-support tools are essential instruments to the risk analysis of NN species because they assist in the identification (screening) and assessment of risks associated with NN species as well as providing support to decision-makers involved in their management. They are currently used in business, social sciences, medicine, politics, games, information technologies, and transport, and they are major building blocks in environmental management and science today. The first step in the risk analysis process is the screening of potentially invasive NN species, that aim to identify which species are likely to be invasive (and therefore require a comprehensive assessment of risks) and which are less likely to be invasive (and therefore are less likely to require detailed analysis). 

A double step approach was suggested for the general implementation of risk management for all stakeholders. This foresees the integrative use of two different methodologies: the Aquatic Species Invasiveness Screening Kit (AS-ISK) to assess the risk of invasiveness of the non-native species and Maximum Entropy method (MaxEnt) to predict the distribution of non-native species in Western Balkans. The combined and integrated use of both methodologies was tested for some well-known NN species among those reported in the updated lists for Western Balkans countries developed as one of the outcomes of the WP2.

AS-ISK v.2.3 tool was used to assess the risk of invasiveness of some aquatic non-native species in the study area. For the assessment, the AS-ISK thresholds for Basic Risk Assessment (BRA) and BRA + Climate Change Assessment (CCA) were given according to Vilizzi et al. (2021). A total of 17 species, from each of the 3 Partner Countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro) and for the Program Balkans Countries (Croatia and North Macedonia) were selected and risk assessment was performed: 10 freshwater fish, 2 marine fish, 2 freshwater invertebrates, 2 marine invertebrates and 1 freshwater plant species. Some species have been assessed by more than one assessor and/or for different areas of assessment.

The second tool used was the Maximum Entropy method (MaxEnt), one of the most widely used Species Distribution Model (SDM) algorithms relating species occurrence to corresponding environmental variables to estimate suitable habitats for a target species. MaxEnt method was used to investigate the potential distribution and habitat suitability of some aquatic non-native species present in Western Balkans region. Species were the same as those selected for the risk assessment analysis using AS-ISK tool and belong to different taxa including freshwater and marine fish and invertebrate species, as well as a freshwater plant species. Maxent was used in the present study to determine the suitable habitats of the selected species according to their occurrences and related environmental variables. Prior to running the models, environmental data were recalculated using the “nearest neighbour interpolation” method to obtain the highest possible spatial resolution. 

The combination between MAXENT method and risk assessment tools like AS-ISK may assist policy-makers, conservationists and managers to make reliable and well-informed decisions on the probable management measures in the near future.

The most widely suggested approach in the literature for Risk Management Process is a 5 linear steps approach:

  • Identify the Risk:
  • Analyze the Risk
  • Evaluate or Rank (Prioritize) the Risk
  • Treat the Risk
  • Monitor and Review the Risk

Thus, according to this approach, and integrating in the Model the outcomes of the WP1, WP2 and WP3, the following Risk Management Model for Western Balkans Countries was proposed: 

  • Identify the risk: a review of policy regulation, environmental definitions and management plans; educational level and practice in education and socioeconomic perception of NNS (outcome of WP1); collection of literature data and information through the involvement of stakeholders in identification of the risks for the aquaculture and fisheries sectors and early detection of NNS (outcome of WP2) has been carried on.
  • Analyze the Risk: in order to carry on a continuous analysis of NNS impact, the partners propose the implementation of a National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan in relation to EU legislations to block the loss of biodiversity and combating climate change for the 3 Target Western Balkans Countries (outcome of WP1).
  • Evaluate or Rank (Prioritize) the Risk: the partners tested the combined use of AS- ISK and MaxEnt tools in order to prioritize the risk (i.e. evaluate the most impacting NNS, …) (outcome of WP3)
  • Treat the Risk: in order to improve response capability of the partnership, tailored courses and new curriculum or updating of the existing ones have been implemented (planned WP4 and WP5)
  • Monitor and Review the Risk: propose the implementation of control over the introduction, release and establishment of new NNS; propose the establishment of border control and biosecurity for the 3 Target Western Balkans Countries and the neighbouring Balkan countries. 
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