A new report by the United Nations found that the global economic cost of invasive alien species exceeded more than $423 billion annually in 2019, noting that costs have at least quadrupled in every decade since 1970.
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report found that more than 37,000 species have been introduced due to human activities throughout the globe. The study found that invasive species are one of the top five “direct drivers” of biodiversity loss.
“The rapidly growing threat that invasive alien species pose to biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable development and human wellbeing is generally poorly understood,” Professor Helen Roy, IPBES Co-Chair, said in a statement. “This authoritative report will make a major contribution to filling critical knowledge gaps, supporting decision-makers and raising public awareness to underpin action to mitigate the impacts of invasive alien species.”
Other drivers include changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of species, climate change and pollution. The study found that invasive alien species have been a “major factor” in 60 percent and the “only driver” in 16 percent of worldwide animal and plant extinctions.
At least 218 invasive alien species were the cause of more than 1,200 extinctions of species, the study found, noting that 85 percent of the impacts of invasive species have on native species are negative.
However, the study also noted that prevention measures could help stop future biological invasions.
“The good news is that, for almost every context and situation, there are management tools, governance options and targeted actions that really work,” said Professor Anibel Pauchard, who is the co-chair of IPBES. “Prevention is absolutely the best, most cost-effective option – but eradication, containment and control are also effective in specific contexts.”
“Ecosystem restoration can also improve the results of management actions and increase the resistance of ecosystems to future invasive alien species,” Pauchard added. “Indeed, managing invasive alien species can help to mitigate the negative effects of other drivers of change.”
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