Do not wish list: global checklist of invasive species is compiled in NZ

The first global register of introduced and invasive species has been compiled by an international collaboration led by a New Zealand researcher.

The register — an open-access, evidence-based information platform — deems an introduced species to be invasive when it’s had a negative impact on biodiversity.

While aiming to have a complete global register by the end of 2018, the researchers have completed their baseline of data for 20 countries and three territories. Within this subset, the researchers found that on average, a fifth of the 6,400 invasive species catalogued have had a negative impact on biodiversity and ecosystems.

News of the compilation of the Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS) was announced by the University of Auckland and reported (HERE) by scimex.

The idea for the register was conceived and conceptualised at the university, where the New Zealand office of the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group has been hosted for over two decades.

GRIIS is presented in the publication Scientific Data, (see HERE), published this week.

“This has been a huge project and has involved the work of many scientists and government staff from many countries around the world,” says University of Auckland Honorary Academic in the School of Biological Sciences Shyama Pagad who is lead author of the work.

“It is vital to helping countries track and monitor how invasive species are impacting biodiversity and fragile ecosystems and the main pathways for invasive species.”

The register includes 202 country and territory sub-lists, and currently houses over 8944 evidence-based records and close to 40,000 alien and invasive species records (species by country, i.e. not unique species) that are in the process of being verified, such as the examples published in Scientific Data. Global coverage, including the European Overseas Territories and Regions is planned for 2018.

Some of the key challenges that had to be overcome in compiling the Register were developing a system that was evidence-based, and that included information from a wide range of sources, languages and formats.

GRIIS will now be updated regularly, enabling repeat assessments and building knowledge to help reduce the impact of invasive species and prevent their introduction.

A highlight of the initiative has been the involvement of networks of editors in each country who are now the custodians of their country’s checklists, says Ms Pagad who is also a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Invasive Species Specialist Group.

Hot, hairy bull enables major scientific discoveries around genetic mutation

An artificial breeding bull which caused some of its offspring to be excessively hairy and prone to overheating has led to two world-first scientific discoveries.

The bull called Matrix had inherited a previously unidentified genetic mutation from its sire and passed it on to offspring born in 2011 and 2012.

As part of an investigation into the bull, LIC scientists isolated the ‘hairy’ genetic mutation, and also discovered a variation in a Caribbean breed of cattle that allows them to tolerate high temperatures.

The discoveries – published this month by the prestigious international science journal Nature Communications – pave the way for the farmer-owned co-operative to breed cattle that will maintain high milk production in tropical conditions, and could protect New Zealand’s cows from future impacts of climate change.

Dr Richard Spelman, LIC’s chief scientist, described the finding as marvellously serendipitous.

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Food-for-health Challenge scientists will aim to boost NZ exports

The University of Auckland, Massey University and University of Otago, along with Crown Research Institutes AgResearch and Plant & Food Research, are being teamed up for the Government’s High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

The task for the scientists from the five institutions – with other collaborators – is to produce cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary research to help New Zealand companies take advantage of global demand for foods with health benefits.

The ten year challenge is approved with $30.6 million subject to finalisation of contract conditions.

A review at the end of five years means another $53.2 million becomes available for a second five-year period.

Total funding for the High-Value Nutrition Challenge is up to $180.8 million over ten years.

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