This series of international workshops and conferences was instigated
in 1992 by Max Wade, Lois Child and John Brock at the
International Centre of Landscape Ecology (ICOLE). The first international
workshop entitled "Ecology and Management of Invasive Riparian
and Aquatic Plants" was held at Loughborough University,
UK in April 1992 (de Waal et al. 1994). The workshop was
initiated in response to growing concern about the problems caused by
introduced plants invading river corridors and other habitats in many
European countries. Great interest for the workshop was shown, with
environmental scientists attending from seven European countries and the
USA, along with representatives from local authorities, fisheries agencies,
river authorities, higher education and government research institutes and the
agro-chemical industry. The conference offered a forum for delegates to
pool their knowledge in the quest for a clearer understanding of the
complexities involved in managing plant invasions and determining
effective control measures.
... was a key date for global concern on environmental protection
and biological invasions. Significant institutional outcomes of the
1992 Rio Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development, UNCED) are United Nations Commission on Sustainable
Development (CSD), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and Agenda 21.
In the European Union 1992 was the commencement of the Fifth Environmental
Action Programme, "Towards Sustainability" i.e. strategy for
sustainable development, and concerns about the development of environmental
policy and its responses to the issues that had been debated in the global
context. Environmental reforms were incorporated in the Common Agricultural
Policy and the Natura Programme was created (to establish sites for
special conservation measures) intending to fulfil the requirements of
the directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna
The continuing importance of these issues prompted the second conference which was planned to widen the participation to include a broader range of environmental scientists and land managers from mainland Europe and to address the issues of terrestrial alien invasive species. The second conference "Plant Invasions: Theory and Applications", organised by Petr Pyšek of the Institute of Botany, Pruhonice, Czech Republic and Karel Prach of the Czech Academy of Science, Trebon, in conjunction with ICOLE and the European Weed Research Society (EWRS) was held in Kostelec nad Cerynmi Lesy, Czech Republic in September 1993 (Pyšek et al. 1995). The conference attracted 36 participants from 9 countries.
Having established a vibrant group of like-minded individuals, the success of the primarily European workshops was extended and the third International Conference "Ecology and Management of Invasive Alien Plants - ecom3" was organised by John Brock at Arizona State University, USA. The conference was held in Tempe, Arizona, USA in October 1995 (Brock et al. 1997).
The issue of alien plant invasions continues to be a major ecological threat and increasing concern amongst environmental scientists regarding the conservation of biodiversity prompted the fourth conference. The focus was not only on ecology and control but also on questions regarding the perception of invasion events and the importance of assessment and evaluation of invasion effects as a prerequisite for management actions. The "Fourth International Conference on the Ecology of Invasive Alien Plants" was organised by Uwe Starfinger and Herbert Sukopp at the Institute fur Oekologie und Biologie, Technische Universitaet Berlin and held in Berlin, Germany in October 1997 (Starfinger et al. 1998). It was attended by 82 participants from 15 countries. The program consisted of two days of oral and poster presentations (50 in total) and a one-day excursion.
The internationally recognised threat posed by invasive alien plants is particularly severe for islands. The Mediterranean islands are major centres of European native plant diversity, consequently the Mediterranean archipelago of the National Park La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy was an appropriate venue to hold the "Fifth International Conference on the Ecology of Invasive Alien Plants" (ICEIAP) in October 1999 (Brundu et al. 2001). The conference was organised and funded by the Dipartimento di Botanica ed Ecologia Vegetale dell' Universita degli Studi di Sassari. Organisation of the conference was by Giuseppe Brundu and Ignazio Camarda. More than 100 contributions in the form of posters and oral contributions were presented at the conference with 20 countries across 5 continents represented. In an attempt to quantify and promote the understanding of ecological issues relating to plant invasions, topics included case studies on the ecology of individual species, general questions on invasion biology and control and management of invasive species in a wide range of ecosystems.
The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP) at its 5 th meeting in Nairobi, May 2000, adopted a specific decision - Alien species that Threaten Ecosystems, Habitat and Species - calling for a series of actions to be undertaken prior to its sixth meeting in 2002. The decision also called for close cooperation between the CBD Secretariat, the Global Invasive Species Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the "Washington" Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Ramsar, Bonn Convention and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In February 2001, IUCN published on-line "Guidelines for the prevention of Biodiversity Loss caused by Alien Invasive Species". The European Union, with its biodiversity strategy, calls for the application of the precautionary principle to avoid detrimental effects of invasive alien species. Two projects were funded in the 5 th Environmental Action Programme, i.e. GIANT ALIEN (Giant Hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum Somm. et Lev., a pernicious invasive weed: developing a sustainable strategy for alien invasive plant management in Europe, commenced 2001) and EPIDEMIE (Exotic Plant Invasion Deleterious Effects on Mediterranean Islands, commenced 2000).
The sixth International Conference on the "Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions" (EMAPi) was organised and hosted by Lois Child at Loughborough University, UK in September 2001 (Child et al. 2003). A total of 34 oral papers and 31 posters were presented at the conference under the seven conference themes: Global issues; Mechanisms; Alien floras; Species ecology - congeners; Species ecology - case studies; Impacts; and Control and management. The conference was attended by 71 delegates from 20 countries. Due to high demand the conference convened a discussion group chaired by Max Wade devoted to Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica). The group spent some time discussing the problems associated with this plant and the potential for biological control of this species. As the problems associated with invasive plant species increase, more attention is being paid to practical solutions and sustainable management options. Having been used extensively in Asia, Australia and the USA for many years, biocontrol solutions are beginning to be recognised in Europe as effective control measures.
The conferences prior to 2003 were run on a relatively informal basis, with a core of committed individuals forming a scientific committee to oversee each conference programme and proceedings. However, the seventh international conference in Fort Lauderdale, USA in 2003 "Invasive Plants in Natural and Managed Systems: Linking Science and Management" was organised in collaboration with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) and the Ecological Society of America (ESA), backed by the Federal Interagency Committee on Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW). The conference attracted over 700 registrations, bringing together an international cross-section of scientists, managers and practitioners.
With the increasing global concern for biological diversity, the understanding of alien plant invasions and their effects continues to be of prime importance in the study of environmental conservation. The eighth conference in Katowice, Poland in 2005 and the ninth international conference to be held in Perth, Australia in 2007 will provide further opportunities to share knowledge on the ecology of individual species and continue discussions on best management practice.