Invasive species risk requires global response

The fight against invasive species which costs the world billions of dollars a year is far harder for developing economies to combat.

Scientists led by a team at Flinders University in Australia  warned non-native species introduced mainly via increasing trade of goods and services have huge economic, health, and environmental costs.

These ‘biological invasions’ involve the intentional or unintentional transport and release of species beyond their native biogeographical ranges, facilitating their potential spread.

Over the last few decades,  the team estimated invasive species have incurred an average cost of at least $26.8 billion per year globally and are predicted to continue increasing. Investing in early management to control their potential damage and spread is widely recognised as more cost-effective than waiting until an invasive species demonstrates clear impacts.

However, the team warned there is limited information available demonstrating whether a country’s capacity to manage its invasive species is effective at limiting future damage.

The study found that while more affluent countries with higher economic activity are vulnerable to more damage from invasive species, they also have the highest potential to limit damages incurred by investing more in management. Consequently, a nation’s economic capability partially determines the efficacy of investing in the control and prevention of invasive species.

The study, led by Professor Corey Bradshaw from Flinders University (Australia), is the first global-scale investigation of the cost-effectiveness of management and intervention of invasive species.

“Based on the data compiled in the InvaCost database, our analyses show that the most affluent nations with sufficient economic capacity to invest in controlling their invasive species reap the biggest rewards by reducing damages in the long term”, said Bradshaw. “Lower-income nations often struggle to allocate enough resources to manage their invasive species, so they suffer relatively more damage as a result”.

Co-author Dr Danish Ali Ahmed from Gulf University for Science and Technology (Kuwait), said, “Our study indicates that lower-income countries possess a clear disadvantage in mitigating the substantial economic losses caused by invasive species.”

“Importantly, our results show that it is prudent for wealthier nations to invest in controlling invasive species within less-capable neighbouring countries, because wealthy nations are also vulnerable to more invasions originating from potentially their less-prepared neighbours,” he added.

Bradshaw added: “Such a form of international assistance serves all affected nations and could ultimately reduce the impact of invasive species across the entire world.’’