Invasive species a growing and costly threat worldwide, key report finds

Invasive species that destroy forests, ravage crops and cause extinctions are a major and growing threat worldwide, according to a landmark UN-backed assessment. From water hyacinth choking Lake Victoria in East Africa, to rats and brown snakes wiping out bird species in the Pacific, to mosquitoes exposing new regions to Zika, yellow fever, dengue and other diseases, tens of thousands of alien species have taken root – often literally – far from their place of origin.

On Monday 4 September, the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published a new report on so-called invasive species.

Researchers compile 13,000 scientific contributions on invasive species

IPBES, also known as the World Biodiversity Council, released its new “Report on Invasive Alien Species” after four years of research. In this report, 86 experts from 49 countries around the world have compiled more than 13,000 scientific contributions on invasive species and related phenomena such as global biodiversity loss. The final votes on the comprehensive paper were taken at the IPBES General Assembly in Bonn in recent days.

Invasive species are animals and plants that spread to areas outside their native range and pose a threat to native flora and fauna. They are seen as a cause of the global decline in biodiversity. Some of these plants and animals have been deliberately introduced outside their native range by humans, while others have been introduced accidentally.

Invasive species in Europe include the Asian hornet, which deliberately attacks beehives for prey, and the Pacific oyster, which overgrows mussel beds in the North Sea.

“A major contribution to filling critical knowledge gaps”

Professor Helen Roy, IPBES Co-Chair, said: “The rapidly growing threat that invasive alien species pose to biodiversity, ecosystem services, sustainable development and human wellbeing is generally poorly understood. 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.”

IPBES aims to provide independent information on the global state of nature. It is a counterpart to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Many animal and plant species around the world are considered critically endangered or already extinct.

The Assessment Report On Invasive Alien Species And Their Control was approved last week in Bonn, Germany at the IBPES plenary, which represents more than 140 governments.

The report is intended to provide policymakers with the best available scientific evidence on the subject while highlighting the various ways invasive species can be controlled.

Previous reports have covered the sustainable use of wild species, a global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystems, land degradation and restoration and pollination.

*IPBES serves as an interface between the scientific community and policy makers with the aim of strengthening the use of science in policy making.  The Platform was established in April 2012 and is an independent intergovernmental body that is open to all member countries of the United Nations.

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