Invasive species are costing the world $423 billion annually

This number has been increasing by at least fourfold in every decade since 1970. So, what's driving this trend?
Sade Agard
Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), also known as the yellow-legged hornet or Asian predatory wasp, is a species of hornet indigenous to Southeast Asia. It is of concern as an invasive species in European countries like the UK, France or Spain.
Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), also known as the yellow-legged hornet or Asian predatory wasp, is a species of hornet indigenous to Southeast Asia. It is of concern as an invasive species in European countries like the UK, France or Spain.


Invasive species are costing the world a minimum of 423 billion dollars each year, as per a recent report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

What's more, this figure has been escalating at least fourfold each decade since 1970.

Their repercussions are profoundly destructive, affecting both humans and wildlife, occasionally leading to extinctions and causing irreparable harm to ecosystem health.

What are invasive alien species?

Invasive species wreak havoc worldwide, ranging from invasive mice that consume seabird chicks in their nests to non-native grasses that exacerbated the deadly fires in Hawaii last month. 

It was only yesterday (September 4) that BBC reported record sightings of Asian hornets that are feeding on the UK's native bees and wasps, damaging biodiversity.

The IPBES report highlighted that more than 37,000 alien species have been transported to various regions and biomes across the globe through human activities. 

Historically, some alien species were intentionally introduced for perceived benefits. Still, the negative impacts of those that become invasive are immense. 

Harmful alien species have been responsible for 60 percent of global animal and plant extinctions and have driven over 1,200 local extinctions. Moreover, 85 percent of invasive alien species impacts on native species are detrimental.

"Invasive alien species are a major threat to biodiversity and can cause irreversible damage to nature, including local and global species extinctions, and also threaten human well-being," said Professor Helen Roy, co-chair of the Assessment, in a press statement.

Indigenous Peoples and local communities, relying heavily on nature, face even more significant risks, with over 2,300 invasive alien species affecting their lands, impacting their quality of life, and threatening cultural identities.

Examples abound, such as North American beavers altering ecosystems and Pacific Oysters transforming habitats, often with disastrous consequences for native species.

Invasive alien species also have profound negative impacts on nature's contributions to people, including disruptions to food supplies. 

Instances like the European shore crab affecting shellfish beds in New England and the Caribbean false mussel damaging fisheries in India underscore these issues.

Furthermore, the impacts extend to people's quality of life through health concerns, including diseases such as malaria, Zika, and West Nile Fever, transmitted by invasive alien mosquito species like Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegyptii. 

These species also harm livelihoods, as seen in Lake Victoria, where fisheries have declined due to the spread of water hyacinth.

The report indicates as global trade and human travel increase, more alien species are introduced. Additionally, other drivers of change, such as climate change, intensify the situation, amplifying the impacts of invasive species.

How can the spread of alien species be prevented?

While there are measures to address invasive species, they remain generally insufficient. 

Only 17 percent of countries have national laws or regulations dedicated to this issue, and 45 percent do not invest in the management of biological invasions. 

Prevention measures, like border biosecurity and strict import controls, have proven effective. Preparedness, early detection, and rapid response are crucial for reducing the establishment of invasive species, particularly in marine and connected water systems.

Eradication has been successful for some invasive alien species, especially in isolated ecosystems like islands. For example, French Polynesia eradicated black rats and rabbits successfully. 

However, eradicating alien plants is more challenging due to dormant seeds in the soil.

Containment and control are viable strategies for invasive alien species in land-based and closed-water systems, as well as in aquaculture. Biological control methods, such as introducing natural predators, have also been successful in many cases.

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