A framework to support alien species regulation: the risk analysis for alien taxa (RAAT).
Human livelihoods and well-being in almost all regions of the world depend on taxa which are alien. Such taxa also, however, threaten human health, sustainable development, and biodiversity. Since it is not feasible or desirable to control all alien taxa, decision-makers increasingly rely on risk analyses to formalise the best available evidence of the threats posed and whether and how they can be managed. There are a variety of schemes available that consider the risks of alien taxa, but we argue a new framework is needed: (1) given major recent developments in international frameworks dealing with biological invasions (including the scoring of impacts); (2) so that decisions can be made consistently across taxa, regions and realms; (3) to explicitly set out uncertainties; and (4) to provide decision-makers with information both on the risks posed and on what can be done to mitigate or prevent impacts. Any such scheme must also be flexible enough to deal with constraints in capacity and information. Here we present a framework to address these points - the Risk Analysis for Alien Taxa (RAAT). It outlines a series of questions related to an alien taxon's likelihood of invasion, realised and potential impacts, and options for management. The framework provides a structure for collating relevant data from the published literature to support a robust, transparent process to list alien taxa under legislative and regulatory requirements, with the aim that it can be completed by a trained science graduate within a few days. The framework also provides a defensible process for developing recommendations for the management of assessed taxa. We trialled the framework in South Africa and outline the process followed and some of the taxa assessed to date.