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Invasive alien species (IAS) are one of the main causes of biodiversity loss and threats to agriculture. Successful early detection, prevention, and management of IAS and their impacts require international cooperation and sharing of information, technology, and tools. In the Americas, IAS information is often nonexistent, unavailable, inaccessible, or incompatible with other data sets. The IABIN Invasives Information Network (I3N), the first of six Thematic Networks established by the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN), facilitates cooperation on IAS information discovery, collection, management, and distribution, and provides education and training on the use of tools developed and freely distributed by the I3N. The I3N is an internationally recognized example of successful national and regional collaboration and sharing on an issue of global significance.

I3N fosters scientific and technical cooperation across national borders, supports decision-making by providing access to key information, builds capacity, develops new tools for information sharing, and promotes common standards. Through their participation in I3N, institutions discover and disseminate information on IAS in their countries, develop national IAS lists, and forge mutually supportive relationships with neighboring countries. With direct access to national knowledge bases throughout the region, those addressing the invasive species challenge can easily obtain data on which species are invasive or potentially invasive in particular habitats, and use this information in their planning efforts. For example, agencies responsible for pest control could quickly determine if a species of interest has been invasive elsewhere. Importers of new non-native species (e.g., nurseries, botanical gardens, pet industry) could access accounts of experiences abroad to make responsible business choices. Land managers could learn about control methods that have been useful in other areas, reducing the need to commit resources for experimentation and increasing the speed at which control efforts can begin.

History
Initiated by the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 2002 as a series of pilot projects sponsored by IABIN and funded by the U.S. State Department and USGS, the I3N began to develop tools for the collection and exchange of IAS information in the Americas. IABIN participants identified invasive species information exchange in the Americas as a priority. Priorities for the invasive species community were defined earlier at the workshop on “Development of Regional Invasive Alien Species Information Hubs,
Including Requisite Taxonomic Services, In North America and Southern Africa”, held at University of California at Davis, USA, 14-15 February 2001 and documented in what is now known as the Davis Declaration. In collaboration with the Information Center for the Environment of the University of California - Davis, the NBII began to develop a software tool for cataloging information to meet those priorities. The I3N pilot project built on these efforts. The USGS and its partners have made major investments to increase the amount of publicly available biological information on IAS.

Funding
The USGS obtained and managed U.S. State Department funds for the now completed I3N pilot project. The Environmental Diplomacy Fund of the U.S. State Department, with support and management from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), gave $12,000 grants to 11 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Bahamas, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, and Paraguay). Using I3N tools and the Internet, the countries began to collect IAS data, publish records on the Web, and implement common information technology and taxonomy standards. To support the continued growth of the I3N pilot project, the NBII developed and hosted a trilingual I3N Web site, a search tool, an online collaboration community, and an e-mail listserve — of which the Web sites and listserve continue to operate in support of the I3N today, even after the $6 million, 5-year IABIN project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) (GEF Grant Project Implementation Plan (PIP)) has ended.

Benefits
Beyond the expected outputs from the I3N pilot project (Web sites, catalogs, species lists), participants realized additional benefits and products from the seed grants. As a result of their participation in the pilot project, countries created their first registry of species, specialists, or projects related to invasive species in their country; discovered past and impending invasion events; created printed educational materials; identified previously unreported invasive species pathways and impacts; began recording current and potential invasive species; contributed to development of national invasive species strategies; provided a list of game and fish species annexed to a national biodiversity law; and integrated I3N catalogs into national biodiversity databases. For example, the environmental agency of Parana, Brazil, published the first official invasive alien species list in the nation in May 07 based on the I3N database. Countries using I3N tools can use them to develop national IAS strategies; the first national strategies template (Spanish | Portuguese)  for South American countries recently developed by GISP and TNC South America IAS Program explicitly recommends using I3N tools.

Products and Services
I3N has developed several tools to support the development of a Web-accessible, distributed knowledge base on invasive species for the Americas. The I3N freely distributes a Open Source database template for creating invasive species records and freely distributes a Web interface template for managing, accessing, and serving invasive species records on the Internet.

Training

I3N has a program to train information managers from throughout the Americas in the use of the I3N tools and in the importance of collecting standardized data to facilitate information sharing. I3N training was offered in 2005 and 2006 in the Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay and USA. Although there are no future training sessions planned at this time, the materials are freely available for your use, and if your organization has funding, trainers to adiminister a workshop in your country are available. For more information, please contact the I3N-Brazil Coordinator.

As a result of international outreach activities, organizations in Morocco, Ghana, Gambia, Ethiopia, Seychelles, Portugal, Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka have indicated their interest in using the I3N tools. I3N-Brazil/Horus Institute and CABI provided training to government representatives from Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia, and I3N-Argentina/Universidad del Sur has trained experts from Morocco and Malaysia.

Governance
Local expertise in collecting, managing, and disseminating invasive species information is essential. Because data on invasive species in any one country represent the efforts of a heterogeneous group of players, it is wise to develop a distributed network with in-country nodes rather than a centralized system. In I3N, therefore, each country’s invasive species information is controlled by the country but is documented and posted on the Web in a standard format. Volunteers currently coordinate the overall network efforts. Previously, the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was the Coordinating Institution (CI) of the I3N. The NBII worked in close collaboration with the Secretariat of the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN) and several partners (described on our Governance page).

International Collaboration
At regional and global levels, the I3N has support and collaboration from the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), which is based in New Zealand; the Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN),

which counts on active participation from Denmark, Argentina, Great Britain, Malaysia, China, Morocco, Zambia, New Zealand, Germany, and the US; the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP); the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); and the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). I3N is particularly proud to have been formally welcomed into the global invasive species scientific community by a declaration at the Convention on Biological Diversity's Sixth Conference of the Parties, which was held in 2002. The work of the I3N supports Decision VI/23 (Alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species) of the CBD Conference of Parties (COP).