A shocking revelation of over 37,000 alien species rapidly proliferating across the globe due to human interference has been brought to light by a recent report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report, which is the culmination of over four-and-a-half years of painstaking research by 86 experts from 49 countries, including Israel’s Bella Galil of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History and the Israel National Center for Biodiversity Studies, highlights the escalating numbers of these invasive alien species and the profound implications they have on our ecosystems and economies.
The economic burden of these harmful invasive alien species, estimated to be over $423 billion annually in 2019, has shown a drastic fourfold increase every decade since 1970, underscoring the urgency of this issue. The report details the invasive nature of 6% of alien plants, 22% of alien invertebrates, 14% of alien vertebrates, and 11% of alien microbes. It also points out that these species have been a significant factor in 60% of global animal and plant extinctions recorded, with at least 218 invasive alien species responsible for over 1,200 local extinctions.
Alien Invasion: The Rising Threat to Biodiversity
The Global Invasion of Alien Species
In a recent report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), it is revealed that over 37,000 alien species are rapidly spreading across the globe due to human activities, with this number continually increasing. Out of these, over 3,500 are classified as harmful invasive alien species, causing an alarming annual economic burden of over $423 billion in 2019. This cost has escalated by at least four times every decade since 1970. Alien species are a subset that has established and spread, causing negative impacts on nature and people.
The Report and Its Findings
The report is the result of more than four-and-a-half years of work by 86 experts from 49 countries, including Bella Galil of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History and the Israel National Center for Biodiversity Studies. The alarming findings reveal that invasive alien species have been a major factor in 60% of global animal and plant extinctions, and the sole driver in 16% of these cases. Furthermore, at least 218 invasive alien species have been responsible for more than 1,200 local extinctions.
The Human Impact
The report also highlighted that 85% of these species negatively affect people’s quality of life. This includes disease-causing species like the mosquitoes responsible for the spread of malaria, Zika, and West Nile Fever. Invasive species also harm livelihoods, as illustrated by the decline of fisheries in Lake Victoria due to the spread of the invasive water hyacinth.
The Israeli Perspective
In Israel, 460 invasive species have been identified along the Mediterranean coast, primarily via the Suez Canal. Hundreds more have been discovered on land since the 1970s. Despite this, a recent report revealed a lack of commitment to managing this issue. However, it is hoped that the IPBES report will prompt the implementation of necessary changes. The country even holds the dubious distinction of having the highest number of invasive species per kilometer.
The Way Forward
In December 2021, 200 countries agreed to mitigate the impacts of invasive alien species on biodiversity and ecosystem services by reducing the rates of introduction and establishment of known or potentially invasive species by at least 50 percent by 2030. The report also emphasized the potential for invasive species to exacerbate climate change, leading to more frequent and severe wildfires.
This report serves as a stark reminder of the escalating threats to biodiversity from invasive alien species, exacerbated by human activities, changing ecosystems, and climate change. It’s clear that more aggressive measures are needed to curb this trend. This involves not just preventing the introduction of new species, but also managing the already established ones. As we continue to grapple with these challenges, it’s evident that preserving biodiversity is not just about protecting nature—it’s about safeguarding our own future.