DIAS collaboration strengthen knowledge transfer
Experts of the Karelian Research Centre of RAS are interested in gaining Finnish experience in the detection and monitoring of invasive species and methods of controlling them. Based on literature data and personal knowledge, the experts have selected the material from the Finnish invasive species portal for translation into Russian language. Selection criteria were, for example, potential danger and the absence of a species in the alien invasive species lists for the Republic of Karelia. These include, e.g., the Emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle. Another examples concern the Pharaoh ants, which may interest many people, as they have been often found in homes. For the last 10 years, there are no reliable data for these species in the Republic of Karelia. The texts translated by DIAS experts Natalia Räikkönen, Natalia Kiuru and Ekaterina Shorokhova made the species’ descriptions on the Russian-language portal much easier.
Ticks in Karelia: behavior and recap of season 2020
Is it true that ticks have become more dangerous? This question of concern for many people in Karelia was answered by Head of the Laboratory for Plant and Animal Parasitology at the Institute of Biology of the Karelian Research Centre RAS Sergey Bugmyrin in a recent post by the DIAS project.
When we speak of ixodid ticks in Karelia, we primarily imply the taiga tick (Ixodes persulcatus) and the castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus). They can be dangerous for humans as transmitters of several infections.
Bugmyrin specifies that these two species do not exactly classify as invasive alien species. They actually appeared in our region in post-glacial time, several millennia ago. Yet, considering the high epidemiological significance of these species and the fact that their distribution range has lately expanded markedly, they were included as objects in the DIAS project. Bugmyrin also commented on the widespread belief that disease transmission by ticks has become more frequent lately. According to him, this is not altogether true.
Comparing the two ixodid ticks that live in Karelia, the prevalence of encephalitis (the proportion of tick individuals carrying the infection) differs between them by more than an order of magnitude. The prevalence of the virus in the taiga tick in the wild is some 3-5%, whereas in the castor bean tick it is 0.1%. In the past, most of Karelian territory was occupied by the latter species, so tick-borne encephalitis was far rarer than now, when the taiga tick population has increased markedly. The prevalence of the virus in the taiga tick is higher.
The reason why one species is displacing the other is that, the castor bean tick is more tightly linked to humans and their farming activities. It tends to warmer and drier habitats, preferably near human settlements, in sparse deciduous forests. The presence of cattle is essential for the species Sergei Bugmyrin explains.
There used to be lots of state-owned farms and private farmsteads in Karelia. Livestock was free-ranged in pastures in the woods. This maintained the high abundance of the castor bean tick. The species expanded its range following humans. In the 1950s, in fact, it was even predicted that as agriculture in the republic develops further, the taiga tick would go extinct, and only the castor bean tick would persist. In reality, however, the opposite happened.
Summing up, Sergey Bugmyrin describes the previous season as average in terms of abundancy of ixodid ticks. Their activity peaked in the first third of June. In 2020, according to Rospotrebnadzor, 3078 people in Karelia, including 794 children, turned for medical help with tick bites. For a comparison, the numbers in the preceding year were 3779 persons, including 788 children. The first case was recorded on March 29th, near a residential building in Harlovo Village (Pudozhsky District). There were 15 cases of tick-borne encephalitis and 20 cases of the Lyme disease confirmed by laboratory tests and clinical symptoms.
Reportage about DIAS project on the Karelia's TV channel
Karelian TV channel presented DIAS-project and our efforts in the Republic of Karelia in Petrozavodsk. The main message was that Karelian scientists, together with their European colleagues, urge residents of the republic to work on collecting and systematizing data on invasive, alien species. It can be animals, plants, insects and even microbes - they combine harmful effects on nature and humans. Everyone can contribute to the study of the issue and the formation of a single database of Karelian pests.
Russian language programme can be found here: http://tv-karelia.ru/karelskie-uchenyie-sobirayut-informatsiyu-ob-invazivnyih-vidah/
Workshop in Helsinki
In February (4th and 5th Feb 2020) DIAS-project organised a 2-day workshop in Kaisaniemi, Helsinki, that binged together thirty participants from the Ministry of agriculture and forestry, Natural resources institute, Finnish Environment institute, Finnish museum of natural history, Finnish food authority, City of Helsinki, Viekas-life project, and researchers and ICT-experts of KarRas. New web portals for invasive alien species were presented and, there were talks of the distribution of invasive species in Finland and Karelia and best practises. The expert network to support changing of information regarding invasive alien species was established.
The project targets creating a sustainable, interoperable and open data and knowledge exchange network between Finnish and Karelian government officials, researchers and citizen (NGOs), to tackle threats posed by invasive alien species.
Invasive alien species (IAS) are species whose introduction and/or spread outside their natural distribution threatens biological diversity by out-competing native species. They can also cause other impacts in their new environment; these consist of health problems, spreading diseases or parasites to humans and farm animals, the species can also be pests to cultivated crops or forests. For example many invasive plants were originally introduced by purpose to gardens or cultivated for fodder, but they have escaped to surrounding nature and are spreading further causing remarkable threat to biodiversity. They can outcompete and displace indigenous species in wild.
As species will not stop at the borders, alien species are recognized as a global problem. In November 2014, the European Union published a new Regulation on Invasive Alien Species. The Regulation establishes a coordinated EU-wide framework for action to prevent, minimise and mitigate the adverse impacts of IAS on biodiversity and ecosystems, and limit their damage to the economy and human health.
Currently Finland has built connections and aligning its laws and regulations with EU invasive alien species directive by adopting its early warning mechanism and connecting the Finnish ict-infrastructure to international data-portals like EASIN and GBIF. However, most beneficial direction for collaboration to tackle the problem is missing. The expected change this project is going to make is to create mechanisms and protocols between Finland and Russian Karelia in dealing with IAS. Importantly, the aim is also to align these actions with the EU policy and also to help local officials on both sides of the border to create joint risk assessments for most important species, communicate future potential risk species (both alien and invasive species) and create management guidelines.
SYKE's researchers analyse and predict changes in the environment including biodiversity and sustainability. Monitoring effects of invasive alien species to biodiversity lies in the core tasks of SYKE. SYKE has multidisciplinary expertise to cover all the tasks of the project, data collection, eradication and communication. SYKEs experts have been leading national projects where the current IAS portal has been constructed. Their expertise will benefit constructing corresponding activities to Russian Karelia. According to SYKEs current strategy SYKE develops the possibilities of sustainable livelihoods.
Luke is a partner and participates in all the activities of the project. Tasks of Luke are to produce information about invasive alien species observations to the data base. Another task is distribute and exchange knowledge about invasive alien species.
Survey of invasive alien species is one of Luke's official tasks according to the national legislation. Other official tasks are for example surveying of forest pests and diseases and damage prognoses of them. Regulating game and fishery affairs is also included in Lukes official responsibilities and invasive alien species affect them. According to Lukes current strategy we develop sustainable local livelihoods.
Karelian Research Centre, RAS is a complex of research institutions with a common infrastructure which carry out basic and applied research intended to comprehensively study natural resources, to solve ecological, economic, power- engineering, social, language, historical, cultural and other problems of Republic of Karelia and adjacent territories.
The Centre comprises 7 Institutes (of Biology; Water Problems of the North; Geology; Economic Studies; Language, Literature and History; Forest Research Institute, Institute of Applied Mathematics Research), as well as a complex of subsidiary services.
The Centre employs about 790 people including 388 researchers with 74 Doctors (DSc) and 229 Candidates (PhD) of Science. Karelian Research Centre is financed through the federal budget. At the moment Karelian Research Centre, RAS is one of the leading scientific institutions in the North-West of Russia which carries out large-scale complex research which requires interdisciplinary approach.
Finnish Environment Institute - SYKE
Position: Project manager
Natural Resources Institute - Luke
Position: Project Manager, Research Scientist, Postdoctoral Researcher
Position: Project Specialist, Researcher
Karelian Research Centre, RAS
Position: Senior specialist, International affairs, Department of Multidisciplinary Scientific Research