Invasives Blog

Climate change is having an important influence on invasive species. The increase in temperatures, rainfall, humidity and drought can facilitate their spread and establishment, creating new opportunities for them to become invasive.

Climate change and invasives

Climate change reduces the resilience of natural habitats to these biological invasions. While, at the same time, making natural habitats, agricultural and urban areas less resilient to climate change. Invasive species already cause over US$1.4 trillion in damage each year – approximately 5% of the global economy – a figure that is likely to increase as the consequences of climate change become increasingly frequent and severe.

As such, invasive plants and pests are a major threat to food security, particularly for low to middle-income countries that lack the capacity to prevent or manage these invasions.

Water hyacinth and brown marmorated stink bug provide examples of how damaging invasive plants and insects can be to the environment and agriculture.

Water hyacinth

invasive species water hyacinth
Invasive water hyacinth

The water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), a global invasive species, has degraded aquatic ecosystems in many tropical, subtropical and warm temperate regions of the world causing environmental and cultural problems.

It grows rapidly, forming dense cover on the surface of freshwater bodies. Its populations are known to double in as little as 12 days, blocking waterways, limiting boat traffic, and affecting fishing and trade.

In Lake Victoria in eastern Africa, it can grow to such densities that ships are unable to leave docks. Climate changes including more frequent hurricanes and floods can transport seeds to new areas and decrease the resistance of habitats to invasions.

Brown marmorated stink bug

invasive species stink bug
Brown marmorated stink bug

The brown marmorated stink bug (Halymorpha halys) already poses a significant risk to crops in East Asia where is originates. It is now reared that extreme climate change could more than double the areas suitable for fruit and nut pest, which has already invaded parts of Europe and North America. 

In 2020, the bug spread across the Black Sea region of turkey, putting around 70% of the world’s hazelnut supply at risk. In 2016 marmorated stink bugs caused $60m worth of damage to Georgia’s hazelnut crop and in 2010, $37m worth of apples were destroyed in parts of the USA.

Simulations with climate change scenarios suggest the bug could move into higher altitudes, increase in generations per year, an earlier start of H. halys activity in spring and a prolonged period for nymphs to complete development in autumn.

Nature based solution and climate change

The crucial role nature plays in combating the impacts of our changing climate will be a key message at the COP26 climate talks.

Nature-based solutions involve working with natural ecosystems, utilising the flora and fauna to address societal challenges including climate change adaptation and mitigation. They involve the protection, restoration or management of natural and semi-natural ecosystems, preserving and enhancing biodiversity, and should be designed and implemented in inclusive ways with local communities (Seddon, Turner, Berry, Chausson, & Girardin, 2019).

CABI has pioneered nature-based solutions for pest, weed, and disease management in agriculture and ecosystem management. By harnessing the combined powers of biological control products, natural pest enemies, restoration of native habitats, and crop diversity, CABI has supported rural communities to build resilience to environmental and climate change hazards.

Biocontrol of coffee borer

coffee harvest
Coffee harvest

In Colombia, CABI has worked with partners to support smallholder coffee farmers with nature-based solutions to tackle climate change and insect pest threats. More than 75% of coffee crops in Colombia are affected by the coffee berry borer beetle, its range expanding due to climate change. While increased temperatures, extreme heat, and higher humidity are all negatively affecting coffee production in the country. Harnessing nature-based solutions, CABI has helped farmers to face these challenges, using a combination of natural biocontrol products made from fungi, improved habitats for natural enemies of insect pests, increased use of agroforestry practices to provide shade for the coffee plants, and all enhanced by a digitally-enabled early warning and advisory service.

Further reading

Learn more about how CABI is helping farmers to adapt to the major challenge of climate change:

CABI’s climate change commitment highlighted at COP26

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