A guilty TV pleasure of mine, much to my housemates’ dismay, are those documentaries focussing on the exciting* world of border security and customs control. Border Security: Australia’s Front Line, Passport Patrol – you name it, give me a Sunday afternoon and I’ll watch hour after hour of disgruntled international travellers being separated from their dried meat delicacies and Kiwis climbing into the hulls of luxury yachts to seek out illegal immigrants hiding below deck.
However, wild plants and animals tend to roam much more freely between destinations rather than spending their time queuing at airports. That’s why the DAISIE database exists. Set up to prevent the invasion of alien species, it aims to limit the damage caused to native fauna by invading species. These unwanted immigrants have the ability to displace species from their natural environment, steal their food and disrupt entire ecosystems.
DAISIE – Delivering Alien Invasive Species In Europe – was funded by the sixth framework programme of the European Commission and aims to both create an inventory of the most high risk invasive species and study their spread in order to prevent damage from bioinvasion. 2451 experts have contributed to the collection of 12122 current invading species.
Such a vast database of misbehaving species has the potential to be impenetrable and difficult to use, however the species have been categorised into a list of ‘100 of the worst’ – like a Channel 4 countdown show – and ‘invasive species of the week’. This week’s target, the Asian water buffalo Bubalus bubalis is wanted for crimes against ecosystems such as harbouring bovine tuberculosis, degrading wetlands and competing with native species for food. Originally from Nepal, India and Malaysia, it is now wreaking havoc across the Northern Territory of Australia. The water buffalo’s presence has negatively affected the endangered Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae), the yellow-billed Egret (Mesophoyx intermedia), white-bellied sea-eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) and magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata). The top one hundred spans plant and species from Acacia dealbata to Undaria pinnatifida.
The database is viewed by those on the front line of species control as not actually that useful – ‘We don’t use it nor am I aware of anyone else in our industry who does,’ says Alexander Dayes of Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd. – however other commentators have spotted its potential as an early warning system for invading species, if properly maintained and regularly updated. Project coordinator Helen Roy from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology envisions DAISIE as a useful tool for ‘policy makers, researchers and NGOs to understand where alien species are coming from, which are most likely to become invasive and what control strategies could prove effective’. There’s a new border security guard on the ground, and her name is DAISIE. Now please lets someone make a documentary about that.
*interpret this word as you will.
DAISIE website: http://www.europe-aliens.org/default.do