Documentation requirements – assessment of ecological risk
Great importance is placed on meeting documentation requirements in the risk assessment of alien species. The scope of legitimate documentation is broadly defined in the Guidelines and all documentation is archived in the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre's Alien Species Database.
- What counts as documentation?
- Archiving documentation in the Alien Species Database
- Making predictions – cases where documentation is not required
- Sourcing legitimate documentation from abroad
In the Guidelines for the Generic Ecological Impact Assessment of Alien Species, greater emphasis is placed on documentation requirements for risk assessments than previously. Good documentation of the data contributes to transparency, meaning that the basis for determining the risk category of the species is unambiguous. Documentation is also a prerequisite for meeting the verifiability requirement and for ensuring knowledge-based assessments. Furthermore, documentation contributes to quality assurance by exposing cases where there is insufficient or poor data.
What counts as documentation?
The Guidelines for the Generic Ecological Impact Assessment of Alien Species state that all information that is used to verify a species assessment must be documented. This raises questions about what should be documented and how much should be documented. There is also the question of what documentation actually means in this context.
Documentation is broadly defined in the context of ecological risk assessments. It encompasses scientific (peer-reviewed) articles and reports, as well as unpublished data and relevant personal observations or species analyses. Personal communications from other experts are also considered to be legitimate documentation.
Archiving documentation in the Alien Species Database
All documentation and relevant sources are stored in the Alien Species Database ("Fremmedartsbasen"), the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre's database for risk assessments. If the documentation consists of scientific publications, these are cited and placed in the database's reference list. Unpublished datasets are imported into the database if the data is relevant for the verification of assessments and such files are made available with the permission of the data owner. Relevant personal observations and deliberations are recorded in the database text boxes. Personal communications from other experts are documented with the name, date and institution of the individual and are thus also recorded in the database.
Making predictions – cases where documentation is not required
Known area of occupancy is an important parameter that is included in the assessments of, among other things, the expansion speed of a species. The area of occupancy is "an estimate of the specific area which is inhabited by the species and which is essential for its individuals" (See 2.7.3 – Guidelines). The known area of occupancy is often documented by the experts uploading their own quality controlled records of species observations. Alternatively, geo-referenced species observations can be imported directly from the Species Map Service ("Artskart").
On the other hand, the estimated assumed area of occupancy comprises the known area of occupancy as well as current, undocumented occurrences in locations where the species probably exists. In the same way, the potential area of occupancy in 50 years (ie. 2068) is also based on undocumented occurrences. Accordingly, there is no requirement for documentation of the assumed total occurrences or the potential area of occupancy of a species, only for the known area of occupancy.
Assessment of the ecological effects of an alien species comprises not only previous and current effects but also effects that can be expected to occur within a 50-year time frame. The prediction of future effects is necessarily more uncertain than the description of current effects. For effects that cannot be documented, only likely effects are included. Examples can be effects that are documented in countries with a climate that corresponds to that which Norway may have in the future.
Sourcing legitimate documentation from abroad
For a number of species there is no relevant data from Norway that can be used to assess the population's expected life span, expansion speed or ecological effects. This applies not only to door knocker species but also to many alien species that are already in Norway – either because they are new, difficult to find, or simply poorly investigated. If there is insufficient good quality data from Norway, documentation can consist of species data from countries with bioclimatic conditions comparable to Norway, or data from closely related species with similar ecological requirements and demography.