Nav: Home

Documenting the risk of invasive species worldwide

August 24, 2016

AMHERST, Mass. - In the first global analysis of environmental risk from invasive alien species, researchers say one sixth of the world's lands are "highly vulnerable" to invasion, including "substantial areas in developing countries and biodiversity hotspots."

The study by biogeographer Bethany Bradley at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Regan Early at the University of Exeter, U.K., with others, appears in the current issue of Nature Communications.

As Bradley explains, "First, we analyzed threats of invasive species introduction and establishment globally. Then, we took a look at national policies to see how prepared we are to combat these threats. Our results show some pretty clear vulnerabilities--high risk, but few policies to deal with invasion. We hope that by raising awareness of the highest risk areas, maybe we can help to jump start a more proactive policy response."

Noting that "most countries have limited capacity to act against invasions," the researchers say there is a "clear need for proactive invasion strategies in areas with high poverty levels, high biodiversity and low historical levels of invasion." By collecting data on how invasives are introduced and established, and assessing national response capabilities around the world, they hope to "improve early warning and eradication schemes."

Bradley says, "Invasive species are a threat to ecosystems and economies worldwide, but are most concerning in countries with few resources to deal with them." Examples of biological invasion in the developing world include Panama disease, which is wiping out banana plantations in Central and South America, and prickly pear, which devastates grassland important not only to wildlife but to farming in Africa.

Bradley and colleagues found that the dominant pathways by which invasives are introduced differs by income, with higher-income countries facing the highest risk from imported exotic plants and pets, while low-income nations face the highest threat from air travel, as invasive species stow away in passenger baggage. They expect air travel to bring future biological invasions of Africa and Asia, for example, regions that are currently becoming increasingly vulnerable to invasion due to climate change and intensifying agriculture.

In documenting national policies on invasive species now in place around the world, the researchers characterize them as either proactive or reactive, but Bradley notes that "proactive policies are remarkably rare. We generally do a pretty good job of identifying invasives after they've become a problem, but a terrible job of keeping them out."

"Another thing we found is that some countries have created excellent, comprehensive lists of invasives, while their near neighbors have no information at all. This illustrates a really good opportunity for cooperation and exchange of information. Nations with more invasive species research and management experience could help their neighbors leap ahead just by sharing information. The information is definitely there in many cases," she adds, "but many cooperative efforts are still a work in progress."

Study leader Early notes that "rampant globalization will lead to invasions in countries with the least capability to deal with them. We need more international cooperation, and for the U.S., Australia and nations in Europe to share expertise." While rich nations are accustomed to the nuisance of invasive alien species and are increasingly taking protective action, the authors found that poorer economies rely on international trade and have little power to regulate imports, so highly dangerous species continue being introduced unchecked.

Overall, Bradley says an obvious recommendation from this work is that nations need to be more proactive. She says, "It's really clear that even in the U.S., where we know that new invasives arrive every day and we understand the pathways for how that happens, for example that 60 percent of invasive plants have been introduced as ornamentals, we could do a better job."

"If you want to know what the invasive species problem is going to look like in 2100, take a look at the new 'exotic' plants you're putting in your yard today. If you want new plants, buy local. If you get tired of your exotic pet snake, don't release it outdoors. A lot of proactive work to reduce invasion risk relies on us -- the consumers -- to be more aware of the consequences of our actions."

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Related Invasive Species Articles:

'Trojan fish': Invasive rabbitfish spread invasive species
For some time, unicellular benthic organisms from the Indo-Pacific have been spreading in the Mediterranean.
New York schools help Cornell monitor local waterways for invasive species
With 7,600 lakes and 70,000 miles of creeks and rivers to monitor, Cornell researchers struggled to stay ahead of round goby and other invasive species -- until they tapped into New York's network of teachers looking to bring science alive for their students.
Documenting the risk of invasive species worldwide
In the first global analysis of environmental risk from invasive alien species, researchers say one sixth of the world's lands are 'highly vulnerable' to invasion, including 'substantial areas in developing countries and biodiversity hotspots.' The study by biogeographer Bethany Bradley at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Regan Early at the University of Exeter, UK, with others, appears in the current issue of Nature Communications.
Invasive species could cause billions in damages to agriculture
Invasive insects and pathogens could be a multi-billion- dollar threat to global agriculture and developing countries may be the biggest target, according to a team of international researchers.
Entomological Society of America releases statement on the dangers of invasive species
The Entomological Society of America has issued a statement about the dangers of invasive species and the potential threats they pose to US national interests by undermining food security, trade agreements, forest health, ecosystem services, environmental quality, and public health and recreation.
Invasive species not best conservation tool: Study
Harnessing an invasive fish species sounded like a promising conservation tool to help reverse the destruction wreaked by zebra mussels on endangered native mollusks in the Great Lakes -- except that it won't work, says a University of Guelph ecologist.
Invasive water frogs too dominant for native species
In the past two decades, water frogs have spread rapidly in Central Europe.
Queen's University in new partnership to fight against invasive species
The rapid spread of invasive species across Europe, which currently threatens native plants and animals at a cost of €12 billion each year, is to face a major new barrier.
A DNA analysis of ballast water detects invasive species
The German research vessel Polarstern covers thousands of kilometers in search of samples of biological material.
Invasive freshwater species in Europe's lakes and rivers: How do they come in?
A JRC-led article has identified escape from aquaculture facilities, releases in the wild due to pet/aquarium trade and stocking activities as the main pathways of alien species introduction in European lakes and rivers.

Related Invasive Species Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...