Invasive aliens choke local biodiversity

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


This is no science fiction. There are aliens out there attacking biodiversity – wild hippos in Colombia and Californian kingsnake in Canary Islands,  while India’s own Nilgiris biosphere reserve on its west, which is one of the eight global hotspots,  is under attack from the ‘everlasting flower’ (Helichysum bracteatum); the Scotch broom (Cytisus scorparius), Acacia and Eucalyptus.

Invasive species are major drivers of biodiversity loss, says Piero Genovesi, chair of the IUCN’s invasive species specialist group. “Invasive species are a major cause extinction in the last century”, Genovesi told a side-event on protected areas on Wednesday.  And their numbers rose by 76 per cent in the last 30 years.

The Asian longhorned beetle and scores other invasive alien species are causing biodiversity losses. Credit Wikipedia

Genovesi cited the examples of the beaver in Argentina and Chile; Prosopis whose spread is creating issues of access to land in Africa; and the all-spreading water hyacinth that not only impacts access to water and transport but also spreads malaria.There are huge impacts on human health, pathogens, vectors due to release of toxins, he said.

In Europe alone, losses due to invasive alien species amount to 12.5 billion Euros each year.

The key to tackling invasive aliens is prevention including early detection; followed by eradication and permanent management.

But there are key impediments to effective prevention and management. These include lack of finances, data, and support from governments and policy makers. The hurdles were recognised as far back as 2001, and continue to remain unchanged since then.

Integrating management of invasive aliens should obviously be integrated into plans for protected areas management, but that is not being done at present.

One does not expect protected areas to completely halt invasive species, but integrating management of invasive aliens into protected areas management would at least save the latter.

So, go get the invading aliens.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 

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