Biodiversity, which expresses the richness of variety and number of living organisms in a region, is also an indicator of the ability of ecosystems to sustain the life support process necessary for the well-being of humanity and a healthy environment. Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life we will find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter.

Although there are over 1 million 750 thousand species recorded on earth to date, this number is actually estimated to be around 10 million. In the last century, the rapid increase in the world population, climate change, environmental pollution, excessive and unsustainable use of resources have seriously destroyed habitats and this situation has become a threat to human life. Today, biodiversity on Earth is declining at an unprecedented rate in human history. Invasive alien species (IAS) are one of the issues that threaten ecosystems and biodiversity lately.

As it is known species that are introduced outside of their natural and potential distributional area by human activities are defined as “alien species”. Alien species populations are kept under control in their natural habitats by many limiting factors as climate, resources, predators and diseases. When alien species successfully establish and spread in a new environment, alter food webs and threaten biodiversity, harm human health and economy, they are called invasive species. IAS are defined as established alien species which have spread, are spreading or have demonstrated their potential to spread elsewhere, and have an adverse effect on biological diversity, ecosystem functioning, socio-economic values and/or human health in invaded regions.

The spread of invasive species is now recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet. These species are causing enormous damage to biodiversity and the valuable natural riches of the earth upon which we depend. Direct and indirect health effects are becoming increasingly serious and the damage to the environment is often irreversible. Moreover, significant economic impact occurs to industries that depend on the coastal and marine environment, such as tourism, aquaculture and fisheries, as well as costly damage to infrastructure.

Species have for ages been spreading to new environments by natural mechanisms (storms, oceanic streams etc.). Today however, species are introduced rather rapidly through human activities of maritime trade and transport. The introduction of invasive aquatic species to new environments by ships has been identified as a major threat to the world’s oceans and to the conservation of biodiversity. They particularly travel by adhesion to hulls of ships, yachts and vessels, and mostly in ballast waters. The problem of invasive species carried by ships has intensified over the last few decades due to the expanded trade and traffic volume and, since the volumes of seaborne trade continue to increase, the problem may not yet have reached its peak. The effects in many areas of the world have been devastating. Quantitative data show that the rate of bio-invasions is continuing to increase at an alarming rate and new areas are being invaded all the time.

Since the introduction of steel-hulled vessels, water has been used as ballast to stabilize vessels at sea. Ballast water is pumped in to maintain safe operating conditions throughout a voyage. This practice reduces stress on the hull, provides transverse stability, improves propulsion and maneuverability, and compensates for weight changes in various cargo load levels and due to fuel and water consumption. While ballast water is essential for safe and efficient modern shipping operations, it may pose serious ecological, economic and health problems due to the multitude of marine species carried in ships’ ballast water. These include bacteria, microbes, small invertebrates, eggs, cysts and larvae of various species. The transferred species may survive to establish a reproductive population in the host environment, becoming invasive, out-competing native species and multiplying into pest proportions.

Biofouling is also considered one of the main vectors for bio invasions and is described as the undesirable accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae and animals on submerged structures (especially ships’ hulls). Fouling by aquatic organisms on wetted surfaces of ships is an important means of transferring species to new regions, especially in marine and coastal ecosystems. Studies have shown that biofouling can be a significant vector for the transfer of invasive aquatic species. Biofouling on ships entering the waters of states may result in the establishment of invasive aquatic species which may pose threats to human, animal and plant life, economic and cultural activities and the aquatic environment.

In order to help address this situation, the Addressing Invasive Alien Species Threats at Key Marine Biodiversity Areas Project which is undertaken by Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry – General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding support, will held an international symposium on ballast water and biofouling management in IAS prevention and control. The main topics of the symposium will include introduction of IAS by ballast waters, legislations, strategies and their implementation, ballast water and sediment management systems, current situation in ballast water management, biofouling management, good practices for preventing alien species from being transported as ballast water or biofouling in maritime transport, etc. The topics will focus on marine IAS specific issues.

“International Symposium on Ballast Water and Biofouling Management in IAS Prevention and Control” will be held in Antalya, Türkiye at 28-30 November 2023. MarIAS project cordially invites scientists working on ballast water and biofouling, representatives of international organizations and projects, undergraduate and graduate students and experts interested in the subject to the symposium.

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