CABI has led an international team of scientists who strongly suggest that the global trade of forest tree seeds is not as safe as previously believed, with insect pests and fungal pathogens posing a great risk to trees and forest ecosystems worldwide.
Non-native insect pests and fungal pathogens present one of the major threats to trees and forest ecosystems globally, with the potential to cause significant ecological changes and economic losses.
Research has already shown that invasive species tend to be more tolerant to environmental stress than related non-invasive species. However, a recent study published in Biological Invasions, set out to discover whether this stress tolerance was an inherent trait or whether it was something acquired en route from their natural habitat to the new one.
A new report supports the fact that invasive species have the potential to undermine global food security and sustainable development, a vital statement supported by Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals which states that we need to: introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species.
Invasive species are a plants, fungi or animals that are not native to a specific location (an introduced species) which spread and can cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health. If not managed sustainably, these invasive species often negatively impact natural biodiversity and ecosystems, and consequently, farmers’ livelihoods.
Rapid globalization and increased trade is compounding this problem. As agricultural and non-agricultural products move from one country to another, the risk of introducing invasive species to non-native regions is also increased.
Research carried out by Dean Paini (senior research scientist – CSIRO) on the Global threat to agriculture from invasive species was carried out across 124 countries. He found that 40 of the countries in the study had the possibility of being invaded by at least one of the 1,297 invasive pests reviewed. The research identified a correlation between the type of crops grown in a country, the level of trade with other countries and invasive pests present in trading countries. He reported that China and USA were the greatest potential sources of invasives species due to the scale of their agricultural production and high levels of trade with other countries.
The report found that countries in sub-Saharan Africa were more vulnerable to the impacts of invasive species. This is because of their less resilient farming systems and increased reliance on the natural ecosystem. Impacts of invasive species are mostly experienced by rural farmers but it’s also felt at the national economic level as agriculture contributes significantly to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is therefore pertinent to understand the source, nature and method of spread of invasive species so that they can be prevented, mitigated or managed – if they’re already established.
We at CABI have launched a global initiative to raise awareness of the global threat of invasive species on food security, trade, sustainable development and rural livelihoods – see our dedicated website. CABI has over 100 years of scientific expertise and knowledge on invasive species and we are using this knowledge to help tackle the worst invasive species across Africa, Asia and Latin America. For instance, Opuntia stricta – an invasive cactus – has colonized vast grazing areas in Kenya, resulting in minimized grazing land and the death of livestock. We have therefore used our scientific expertise to help address this invasive by introducing a sap-sucking bug (Dactylopius opuntiae) which is known to feed only on Opuntia stricta without causing harm to any other native plant species. This bug has previously been successful in controlling Opuntia stricta in South Africa and has already started being effective in addressing the same issues in Kenya.
As sustainable agriculture and rural development is at the core of our work, we aim to tackle invasive species by improving the knowledge of local people on the different methods of preventing the arrival and spread of invasive species. We also want to support agencies responsible for early detection and eradication of invasive species as well as mitigate invasive species through sustainable measures. This will ensure that invasive species are addressed without causing further harm to the environment and livelihoods.
In this, the era of globalisation, increases in international trade, transport and travel have driven an upsurge in the diversity and volume of non-native species introductions to new areas worldwide. Introduced plant, animal and pathogen species may fail to establish in a new range, and where they do establish, may be environmentally benign. However, there is potential for introduced non-native species to become invasive, even after a (sometimes extensive) period of time without apparent negative impacts.
Preventing the introduction and establishment of a species considered to be an invasion risk is key to mitigating its potential impacts in a new area. For this to be done effectively, it is vitally important that countries conduct horizon scanning initiatives to determine the non-native species likely to arrive, to evaluate the threat posed should the organism become established, to determine by which pathway(s) the organism may be introduced and where appropriate, to convey to the competent authority the requirement for rapid response strategies to alert list species. The recent European Union (EU) draft regulation which aims to legislate for the control of invasive non-native species in the EU is likely to be focused on a list of priority non-native species. A significant number of the species on this list are likely to be alert species not yet present in the region, but which will be determined as threats through the horizon scanning and prioritisation process. The outcomes of this horizon scanning process are likely to be of great interest and importance to various concerned parties across the European continent and beyond, and will certainly be subject to close scrutiny.
Hundreds of invasive species experts gathered last week, 23-27 October, in Qingdao China at the 2nd International Congress on Biological Invasions. High on the agenda was how policy makers can respond to the accelerating risk posed by invasive species as international trade increases and climate change opens up new opportunities for invasion.
In a session chaired by Prof. Daniel Simberloff on ‘Approaches in the International Policy Arena’, CABI was given the key note speaker position to showcase the contribution that systematic reviews can make in converting scientific evidence into practical evidence-based policy.