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Deficiencies in central government efforts to combat invasive alien species

Central government efforts to combat invasive alien plant and animal species have been slow for a long time and remain inefficient, according to the Swedish National Audit Office’s audit. These deficiencies reduce the prospects of achieving the environmental objectives and risk resulting in greater spread and rising costs of damage and control.

Man in protective gear fights giant hogweed.

Photo: Fredrik Funck/TT

Invasive alien species is among the greatest threats to biodiversity in Sweden and the rest of the world. These species can cause considerable damage to nature and in some cases, can spread disease to humans and animals.

The Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) audit shows that the Government and agencies responsible have not taken sufficient measures, thereby making environmental objectives linked to biodiversity more difficult to achieve.

“In spite of the fact that these problems have been known for decades, it is only in recent years that the State has begun to take serious measures. Several essential elements for effective action are still missing,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

One shortcoming is that the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management have still to investigate which species are causing the most harm in Sweden and thus should be given priority. In this respect, Sweden is lagging behind Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management must also establish management measures and programmes that state how EU-listed species that are identified as being widely spread in the country must be managed, but to date these are only available for one out of four such species.

It is up to the county administrative boards to ensure that measures are taken to combat invasive alien species. However, county administrative boards’ prospects of effective actions are limited by the fact that the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management have not clarified which species and management measures should be given priority.

“This has delayed actions, with the risk that species have time to spread further and thereby become more difficult and expensive to combat. It may also have meant that the management measures launched by country administrative boards may not have been the most urgent ones,” says Linda Sahlén Östman, Project Leader of the audit.

The Government, which is ultimately responsible, has been slow to identify a clear division of responsibility between the government agencies and has not been sufficiently clear in its governance. Furthermore, the Government has not sufficiently followed up that the government agencies’ efforts have led to the desired results.

Recommendations in brief

The Swedish NAO recommends that the Government further clarifies some of the agencies’ responsibilities and duties and develops follow-up of agency work.

It is recommended that the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, among other things, continue to develop the monitoring system on invasive alien species and finish investigating which species should be managed with priority.

See the report for full recommendations.

Invasive alien species

Alien species refers to animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms that have been introduced outside their natural range, for example when food is imported or in the uptake of a ship’s ballast water during transport. An alien species that is deemed to be capable of causing harm to nature is described as being invasive. Invasive alien species may replace or outcompete other species or spread disease to humans and animals. Giant hogweed and the common raccoon dog are examples of invasive alien species found in Sweden.

Invasive alien species are a global problem, increasing in line with growing international trade and travel. Since 2015, there is an EU Regulation with provisions on invasive alien species.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

Updated: 30 November 2022

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