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Invasive species : The Asian Hornet in France

The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), has colonized France and is spreading in Europe, this species acclimatizes easily to new territories and reproduces very quickly, thus making numerous ravages to bees and other pollinating insects. We find this species in the north of India, in China and in the mountains of Indonesia; it usually lives in gardens and green spaces and feeds on social insects. The Asian hornet is mainly black, with a broad orange band on the abdomen and a yellow first segment. Its head is orange, seen from the front, and its legs are yellow at the ends. It measures between 17 and 32 mm. It is smaller than the European hornet.

It seems to have arrived in France hidden in a shipment of Chinese pottery delivered in 2004 to Tonneins (Lot-et-Garonne). In a few years, it has proliferated all over France and has also spread to Spain and Portugal. Vespa velutina has spread to 24 regions from the Charente-Maritime to the Gard. Researchers have observed through genetic studies that samples taken from different nests had the same DNA sequence. So the hornets studied all have the same genetic characteristics; this means that a single mother would be the origin of all the Asian hornets present in France today. It took the arrival by chance of a single Asian hornet queen to spread this invasive species.

The proliferation of this species is very fast, indeed a nest gives four nest the year after. Moreover, there are not a lot of predators of the hornet in Europe, allowing them to cause significant harm by attacking bees. Bees constitute 80% of the hornets' diet. Nectar harvests and pollination are then strongly impacted. The hornet will cause the loss of many bee colonies by decreasing their activity but also by stressing them, leading many times to the death of these insects. The Asian hornet is therefore a major threat to European biodiversity, preventing the reproduction of many species of flowering plants due to the lack of bees. Hornets also cause damage in orchards by eating fruit, they recover the sugar present in the fruits causing them to rot. Leading to a decrease in the quality of the products in the wine sector. The proliferation of Asian hornets poses a health, economic and agricultural problem.


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Don’t be shellfish – the invasive crab that isn’t too invasive

Not all invasive species are equally invasive. Sometimes, species find an opening in local ecosystems adding to local biodiversity without larger disruptions to local wildlife.

The white-fingered mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii) is a small crab named after its claws that are white underneath. It is originally from the Atlantic coast of North America but has become one of the most widely spread crab species globally. It was first observed in Finnish waters in 2009 in Naantali, in southwest Finland. Since then, the crab has spread steadily and has become a common sighting all over the Archipelago Sea (figure 1).

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It is said that invasive species are bad for the local environment but is it true? The jury is still out on the mud crab. The crab seems to be very successfully in adapting to different surroundings. Typically, it lives on soft, muddy bottoms but in the Archipelago Sea it has also adapted to live on rocky bottoms among the bladderwracks.

As a predator, the non-native crab could potentially affect native species drastically. The crab has adapted to feed on a variety of local species, including amphipods, mussels, and small fish. It seems to be especially fond of the Theodoxus fluviatilis, snails that clean the bladderwrack from algae. However, it looks like the presence of the white-fingered mud crab does not have any considerable effect on the populations of local species or that the bladderwrack would be affected by the diminishing of the snails.

The crab is food for others, once they get the taste for it. The cormorants, perch, and four-horned sculpins have already found the crab a tasteful addition to their diets, as indicated by stomach content studies of these species. Probably though, the crab will not end up on our plates.

The crab is here to stay whether we like it or not. It seems it has found its own niche to fill in the ecosystem of the northern Baltic Sea, finding it’s place in the food chain while not disrupting the life of the other species around it. Long term effects of the crab remain to be seen, but for now, luckily, the biggest hazard from this newcomer for locals is the possibility of being pinched in the toe when having a swim.

Camilla Arhippainen & Marcus Pellas


Forsström, T., Fowler, A.E., Manninen, I., Vesakoski, O. (2015) An introduced species meets the local fauna: predatory behavior of the crab Rhithropanopeus harrisii in the Northern Baltic Sea. Biol Invasions (2015) 17:2729–2741

Fowler, A.E., Forsström, T., von Numers, M., Vesakoski, O. (2013) The North American mud crab Rhithropanopeus harrisii (Gould, 1841) in newly colonized Northern Baltic Sea: distribution and ecology. Aquatic Invasions (2013) Volume 8, Issue 1: 89–96

Havaintokartta (n.d.) Visited 1.4.2022

Puntila-Dodd, R., Loisa, O., Riipinen, K., Fowler A.E. (2019) A taste for aliens: contribution of a novel prey item to native fishes’ diet. Biol Invasions 21:2907-2917


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The Distribution and Problems of Invasive Alien Plant, Mimosa diplotricha (Mimosaceae) in Nigeria

The Distribution and Problems of the Invasive Alien Plant, Mimosa diplotricha (Mimosaceae) in Nigeria

Invasive shrubs such as Mimosa diplotricha (Mimosaceae) that impact negatively on existing plant communities pose a threat to biodiversity, agriculture, and human livelihoods. The origin of the weed is traced to Brazil, its natural habitat ranges from southern Mexico to northern Argentina including the Caribbean islands. This leguminous vine has spread throughout Asia, Africa (Nigeria, Mauritius, and Reunion).
Mimosa is one of the most diverse genera of Mimosoid legumes, with over 500 species. Central Brazil is a key center of diversity for Mimosa most farmers consider M. diplotricha to be a pest, whereas others believe it has certain advantages. They consider that soil fertility and porosity better in M. diplotricha -free areas. According to the literature, the weed is a nitrogen (N) fixer.

Problems of M. diplotricha
Agriculture, conservation, and residential areas all suffer from this pest. Infestations were found on okra, maize, cassava, and plantain farms, as well as oil palm and coconut plantations.

Assessment show that the weed is not crop specific and might be a problem in any agricultural system. This weed species has a substantial economic impact on Nigerian ago-ecosystems, burying crops and reducing agricultural growth and development.

To keep the weed from spreading and invading further Nigeria's government and institutions should share information and experiences on the management of M. diplotricha and its ecological requirements with nations afflicted by the weed, such as Australia, Papua New Guinea, India, and Thailand.

Furthermore, international collaboration and communication with nations such as Australia and Papua New Guinea that have effectively managed and controlled the weed via biological control is vital to the successful management and control of M. diplotricha in Nigeria.



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Meeting Dmitii Plekhanov

Hack4Oceans in Brussels

The Вachelor students from the Sustainable Coastal Management at Novia UAS, participated in Hack4Oceans in Brussels. The hackathon was organized by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (EC DG MARE).

The idea of Hack4Oceans was to combine the youth minds in a two-day intensive workshop to solve the problem of how to conserve and sustain the use of marine resources and oceans. Hackaton united students, experts, academics and officials from across EU countries.

The hackathon was divided into 4 sections important for the conservation of the oceans:

Notebook Dmitrii Plekhanov2

  • Marine Litter
  • Alternative food from the ocean
  • Ocean and Climate Change
  • Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems

Dmitrii Plekhanov and Vivi Wendelin participated in the “Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems” section with the idea of the project called “Erasmus for the Sea”. The main idea of the project was to create and develop a system that will help managers of the marine protected areas to find volunteers from the students to solve a wide range of environmental problems and help conserve the nature of the marine protected areas.

Hanna Tsyvinskaya was the member of the team that developed the idea of how to reduce marine litter especially plastic by making changes in behaviour of individuals.

Team Dmitrii PlekhanovOther ideas and projects that were developed during the hackathon were also interesting and useful for protecting marine ecosystems. The grand jury had a difficult job to choose the best projects in each section. The result of their choice was that both projects with Novia students won their respective sections.

EC DG MARE intends to study all the proposed ideas and projects and use the best projects for further development.


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Fortunately, I was one of the participants in the environmental hackathon, that took place in Brussels at the end of October and was sponsored by the European Commission.

I applied for participation almost a year before the event. The application consisted of questions not only about studies, but also questions regarding your motivation and interest in environmental issues. Thus, invitations to the event were also received by those people whose work or study is not related to the environment, but for whom the preservation of natural values was really important. And this was a very big plus for me personally - as I managed to participate in a joint brainstorming session with programmers, business developers, who looked at environmental problems from a different angle and looked for solutions in other directions than I did.

I think one of the most interesting parts of this blog is organization and payment:
All organizational and material issues were taken over by the host side - the flight, accommodation and meals were fully paid for me. It was also possible to send a request for compensation for the money spent on travel to and from the airport. Before the event, there were also several online courses dedicated to working with the Miro service. Which was used directly at the hackathon.

About 50 people came to the event - they were students or workers from completely different industries and countries, such as Sweden, Greece, Spain, France, Belgium, Portugal and Finland, which I and two other classmates proudly represented. The hackathon consisted of four sections, I participated only in two – “ocean pollution with plastic and ways to reduce plastic in the ocean” , and the second section – “Fish farms - attracting the population to consume fish grown on the farm, instead of wild caught”. The section could be chosen in accordance with your interests, no one forced me to choose a topic. And then, in each section, ideas were generated that were supposed to solve the key problem of the section. This all happened on the first day.

On the second day, we voted for the best ideas - those ideas that received the largest number of votes - developed into a project plan, here we have already used the Miro service. I recommend it to everyone who wants to organize thoughts in their head and develop a plan for implementing an idea for a project or business.

I was on a team working on the issue of reducing plastic consumption. It should be noted that only I have a background related to the environment, the rest are IT workers and a business analyst. But it was interesting - everyone is different, with their own vision. The coolest part of the project, that on the second day, in the process of developing our idea, was the opportunity to consult with business and environmental experts. In general, during the event, I tried to walk a lot around the hall and get to know people. It seems to me, that this is the main point - maybe we will not come up with a real solution to the environmental problem, but we will meet new people and understand where to develop further.

The event lasted two days: from 8 am to 6 pm. I honestly thought that in the evening I would walk around the city and watch the sights. But at the end of the day, after such a tight schedule, I was very tired, and I only had enough strength to get to the hotel and walk around it. It's great that the hotel was booked for us in the city center in a picturesque location.

And so, summing up, I want to describe who should go to such an event, and who is better off skipping. If you are a student or a specialist, no matter what field, but you are really interested in the environment and feel that you still have a lot to learn - this is a very good opportunity and worth going. But if you are already a specialist who has worked out his own direction and development plan, who has already gone through many events and believes that he already perfectly knows the methods of project development and presents ideas well, then it is better to share this opportunity with others.

I am very glad that I have such an experience. It was useful, the main thing is to be open and recognize that there is still a lot to learn.


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Fighting Eutrophication, one Wetland at a Time

The Västankvarn Wetland project includes the construction of two wetlands. It is a constructed Wetland built in 2019 in an area of 1.6 Ha of land. The main purpose of this project was to create a system to capture excessive nutrient runoff coming from nearby agricultural areas, from entering the coastlines in the Raseborg areas, and therefore reducing eutrophication and improving biodiversity. The project has the collaboration of multidisciplinary experts from the Bioeconomy Department of Novia UAS, Västankvarn and locals.

There were a few challenges. Pesticides represent a challenge to the wetland; they are a threat to the environment. Another problem as the sulphuric acid. The project researchers took sample of the wetland soil to check it. As a precaution, they added a few hundred tons of lime were added to the soil, to prevent the sulphuric acid to activate and be released.

This is an exciting project, and besides its benefits to eutrophication issues and the biodiversity, it will provide researchers and environmental sciences students with an excellent location to carry out their studies. The Västankvarn province is located not far from the capital city of Helsinki, making connections through roads and stations easier to visitors and researchers.


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Business diversication

Doing agriculture or aquaculture farming business nowadays is demanding a sustainable and eco-friendly approach. There are a few reasons for that, mainly customers are living in the cities where is required to reduce the ecofootprint in every aspect of living. Simply customers want ecofriendly products. At the same time a sustainable approach for using resources, slowly coming into the agricultural sector and with the regulation changing understanding how to do business and take care of nature. So the pressure from both sides steps by step changes life for the better future.

Changing approach in agriculture costing a lot, new methods sometimes need new technology and but at the same time give unexpected benefits. One of the most significant benefits for farms became naturally interested from the citizens to come and check how it goes. That desire brings visitors and money with them.

Quite soon farmers realised that eco-friendly farm could also create profit from the tourists. So the answer did not take a long time. Farm and tourists clusters have appeared all over the world.

“SalmonFarm” Oy, one of the pioneers of salmon aquaculture in Finland. Located at Kimito municipality of Finland is took the wave and with the development of the main business started to develop hotel and restaurant business in the Turku archipelago.
Advantageous location, high-quality fish products, smart organization of accommodation for tourists and business became a success for the local community. It brings about 20 employees in the low season and more than triple during the summer. The local community now is more sustainable and wealthy.

But not only tourism and accommodation make the “SalmonFarms” business diversified. The local market showed a demand for sustainable products for the fisher industry. Own need and increased demand for the local provider for feeding fish in the cages lead the company to a new business that became a main investment at the moment. Catch herring and sprat by own fleet with subsequent production fishmeal and fish oil lead company for a new market, making it a leader and supporting sustainability. Catching and using local fish as feed for the salmon in the cages SalmonFarm reduces foreign nutrients and circulates the sea's nutrients. The fish caught in the Baltic Sea, processed into feed, and fed in local cages, is involved in phosphorus and nitrogen processing.

Finally, activities of the local company support sustainability, provide recreation services and improve food security in the region. All benefits were shared with the local community and people all over Finland, who decided to spend a vacation in that region. At the moment, the company are profitable and brings income for the owners. So, the conclusion that could be done that sustainable business brings benefits for all.


Photo Credits Karlis Dzjamko: Pexels


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Advantages of certifications for aquaculture farms

In recent years, people have become aware of the adverse impacts of their activities on the environment. Aquaculture is one of these activities. For example, in the case of a farm whose the main activity is fish farming, the following aspects may have impacts on the environment:

  • Feed the fish: when the amount of food distributed to the fish is greater than their needs, the food not consumed remains in the environment and constitutes an important source of nutrients. Among these nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus are known to participate in water eutrophication which is a major problem in the Baltic Sea.
  • Take care of fish, maintain equipment and infrastructure: the use of medicines or all other types of products for fish care, maintenance of equipment or infrastructure or even sea travel constitutes a potential source of pollution of environment and may have impacts on the flora and fauna of the region.

For these reasons, the implementation of an environmental management system (EMS) is relevant for an aquaculture farm because it will allow the farm to determine the environmental aspects and impacts of its products and activities, to set objectives to reduce its impacts and put in place the necessary actions to achieve its objectives. The implementation of an EMS also consists of monitoring the achievement of these objectives through indicators and the implementation of corrective actions. Therefore, an EMS allows an aquaculture farm to comply with environmental regulations but also to have a competitive advantage while improving the public image of the organization. ISO 14001 is an example of certification of environmental management systems.

Other certifications can present advantages for aquaculture farms such as the FSSC 22000 certification (Food Safety System Certification 22000) including in particular the ISO 22000 certification. This assures consumers that the certified organization seeks to produce safe food for human health. In addition, a farm that seeks to feed the fish it raises with healthy products is also a farm that will have a competitive advantage over these competitors and improve its image with consumers. For example, the GMP + FSA (Feed Safety Management) standard can attest to the safety of foods used to feed fish.


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A comparison between aquaculture facility on land and out to sea (on-land/offshore)

Producing over 50 percent of consumed seafood worldwide, aquaculture has become the world's fastest-growing food-producing industry, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The risk of disease contamination is reduced by growing fish in land-based aquaculture systems, in closed and controlled environments. Fish production is completely natural and healthier as no antibiotics or disease treatments are involved in a normal production process. Carrying costs can be reduced as RAS technology is not entirely dependent on a specific water source and these land-based aquaculture systems can be built close to the market, resulting in a shorter time for transportation. Water pollution from the feed, feces, and chemical waste is being signified ally reduced by advanced filtering capabilities, making it a much more sustainable alternative.RAS allows continuous harvest round the year and compared to other methods fish grow to commercial size faster, In terms of efficiency and productivity. In RAS water temperature, oxygen, and carbon dioxide is controlled to their optimum level, which results in better conversion of feed to fish mass, lower contribution on the entire production chain, and lower production costs. On the other hand, it is comparatively risky and expensive setting up an offshore aquaculture farm, though there are a lot of offshore aquaculture farms existing which are paid off. A lot of uncertainty in the open ocean space is there. People aren't familiar with a lot of novel production technology. For example, a lot of new species in the open ocean are there.People are commonly concerned with traditional aquaculture species for example salmon, shrimp, and tilapia - as they know both production cost and profitable revenue. Also, the regulatory environment is completely different for different areas where people are thinking about doing open ocean aquaculture. Permitting the producers to operate in tropical waters can also have a positive impact on the production of the fish.


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Is Fish Farming a Fishy Business?

Do you care where the fish you buy comes from? If you are like me, a person concerned with the environment, then you should care. Fish farming was created to raise fish in a more sustainable way than wild caught fish. At least, that was the idea behind it. How can we trust the business? The main reason fish farms were created, was to keep up with the growing demand for seafood around the globe. But, with the rapid increase in demand, and consequently an increase in fish production, how can we be certain fish farming is keeping its words when comes to sustainabil

When fish are being overbreed, can they still be classified as sustainable? Some fish farms also fed with feed pellets containing GMO soybeans, in addition to antibiotics and hormones, which consequently, end up in our stomachs.

Check for labels! Just like other sustainable products, sustainable farm raised fish comes with labels on them. The more consumers demand for sustainability, the more they will be available. When we buy fish from fish farms, we are helping wild fish species, by protecting them from overfishing. Real sustainable fish farming do not use additives, chemicals, antibiotics, or hormones. Additionally, their fish is fed with vegetables. Sustainability comes with responsibilities. To be classified as sustainable, goes beyond just how you raise the fish, but also how you maintain an overall sustainable business operation. It involves monitoring, to make sure no wastes are produced, and to keep the water quality. They can also maintain their sustainability by using wind energy, producing drinking water from seawater, cleaning their own waste water, and making sure every part of the fish is used for a purpose. The goal is to not produce any waste.



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