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Better Biosecurity to Slow the Spread of Invasive Non Native Species

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Dunn
  • Application Deadline
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  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

Better Biosecurity to Slow the Spread of Invasive Non Native Species

SUPERVISORS: Dr Alison Dunn, School of Biology, Dr Claire Quinn, Sustainability Research Institute
& Trevor Renals, Environment Agency (CASE Partner)

Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) threaten ecosystem services, with increasing economic costs (~£1.7bn pa to GB). Freshwaters ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the spread of INNS through trade, transport and recreation. E.g. zebra mussels block water pipes, salmon fluke damages fish stocks, floating pennywort disrupts navigation and can lead to flooding. Once INNS become established it is often impractical and expensive to manage them. Our most effective response is robust biosecurity to prevent their introduction and spread, with new EU legislation on Invasive Alien Species 2015 emphasising management of pathways for introduction.

In 2010, DEFRA launched the “Check Clean Dry” campaign, to encourage people to check, clean and dry equipment to kill potential “hitchhiking” INNS and minimise their spread. However, tests of the effectiveness of this treatment showed that most of the species on the Environment Agency’s “least wanted” list that in fact survived several days’ drying. We found that soaking equipment in hand-hot water (450C) caused increased mortality (>90%, Anderson et al. 2015). This treatment has been incorporated into the biosecurity guidance of the EA and the GB Non Native Species Secretariat, but further development is needed.

KNOWLEDGE GAPS. The Environment Agency (EA) have identified that the lack of pragmatic advice that they can offer staff and the public, coupled with poor understanding with regards the efficacy of these methods, is undermining their ability to manage this risk. It is essential that the biosecurity advice the EA adopts and promotes is effective against the broadest range of risks possible, namely invasive non-native plants and animals, and the diseases and parasites that impact plants and animals. The EA are about to embark on a programme of facilities upgrades across the business. They need to know what facilities represent an efficient and cost-effective use of public money. Specifically, they need to know the efficacy of hot-water treatment at lower temperatures or for shorter durations; what other methods exist, and what efficacy they have against a range of threats (animals, plants, diseases). This evidence base will allow them to apply a level of biosecurity that is appropriate for the risk as well as enhancing the information they provide to their customer.

1. Develop effective and pragmatic biosecurity practices to reduce the spread of invasive animals, plants, parasites and pathogens.
2. Improve cost effectiveness and ease of use by developing a tiered approach applicable to the risks of invaders and resources available at different sites/organisations
3. Assess the efficacy of biosecurity training within the Environment Agency by evaluating staff awareness and changes in behaviour.
4. Develop evidence-based interventions to encourage uptake and spread of biosecurity practice.

METHODS The student will develop an interdisciplinary approach. Lab and field trials will be used to develop and test biosecurity protocols for high risk invasive plants, animals and parasites identified by the EA. Data analysis will be in R. Evaluation of training will use existing EA baseline datasets as well as quantitative (survey questionnaires) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews) social research methods. Qualitative analysis will be conducted using NVivo. By working with the EA from design through to output, the project will lead to improved biosecurity across the EA and its customers and will inform UK policy.

IMPACT OF THE RESEARCH Invasive Non Native Species are a major driver of environmental change and this work is timely as the new EU legislation the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species(2015) requires member states to manage IAS, with a particular focus on managing pathways for introduction.
Evidence and guidance arising from the project will benefit the Environment Agency, and their customers ( UK businesses and conservation) and will inform UK Government policy on Invasive Non Native Species. In the longer term, changes in biosecurity policy and practice as a result of the project will slow the spread of invasive non-native species in the UK, with social (recreation, tourism) and economic (flood management, aquaculture, fisheries) benefits.

For further details see http://www.nercdtp.leeds.ac.uk/projects/index.php?id=251
Apply at http://www.nercdtp.leeds.ac.uk/how-to-apply/

Funding Notes

NERC CASE studentship with the Environment Agency. This studentship is directly funded by NERC and the Environment Agency. The student will join the cohort of students within the Leeds-York NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP).


Full project description http://www.nercdtp.leeds.ac.uk/projects/index.php?id=251
application process at : http://www.nercdtp.leeds.ac.uk/how-to-apply/
• Dunn, A.M. & Hatcher, M.J. 2015. Parasites and biological invasions: parallels, interactions and control. Trends in Parasitology 31, 189-199
• Anderson. L.G., Dunn, A.M., Rosewarne, P.J. & Stebbing, P.D. 2015. Invaders in hot water: a simple decontamination method to prevent the accidental spread of aquatic invasive non-native species. Biological Invasions In Press DOI 101.007/s10530-015-0875-6
• Anderson, L.G., White, P.C.L., Stebbing, P.D., Stentiford, G.D. & Dunn, A.M. 2014. Biosecurity and Vector Behaviour: Evaluating the Potential Threat Posed by Anglers and Canoeists as Pathways for the Spread of Invasive Non-Native Species and Pathogens. Plos One, 9.
• Reed MS; Kenter J; Bonn A; Broad K; Burt TP; Fazey IR; Fraser EDG; Hubacek K; Nainggolan D; Quinn CH; Stringer LC; Ravera F (2013) Participatory scenario development for environmental management: A methodological framework illustrated with experience from the UK uplands, Journal of Environmental Management 128: 345-362. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.05.016
• Quinn CH; Ziervogel G; Taylor A; Takama T; Thomalla F (2011) Coping with multiple stresses in rural South Africa, Ecology and Society 16: 10-10.
• Reed MS; Graves A; Dandy N; Posthumus H; Hubacek K; Morris J; Prell C; Quinn CH; Stringer LC (2009) Who's in and why? A typology of stakeholder analysis methods for natural resource management, Journal of Environmental Management 90: 1933-1949. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2009.01.001

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

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