Over 37,000 Alien Species, Including India’s Hyacinth, Posing Global Threat
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – In a groundbreaking finding, over 37,000 alien species, including India’s hyacinth and Lantana, have been introduced by many human activities to regions and biomes around the world, a major new report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) said.
More than 3,500 of these are harmful invasive alien species — seriously threatening nature, nature’s contributions to people and good quality of life. Too often ignored until it is too late, invasive alien species are a significant challenge to people in all regions and in every country.
The severe global threat posed by invasive alien species is underappreciated, underestimated, and often unacknowledged.
In 2019, the IPBES Global Assessment Report found that invasive alien species are one of the five most important direct drivers of biodiversity loss — alongside changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of species, climate change, and pollution.
The report was produced by 86 experts from 49 countries. It draws on more than 13,000 references, including very significant contributions from Indigenous Peoples and local communities, making it the most comprehensive assessment ever carried out of invasive alien species around the world.
People with the greatest direct dependence on nature, such as Indigenous Peoples and local communities, are found to be at even greater risk. More than 2,300 invasive alien species are found on lands under the stewardship of Indigenous Peoples — threatening their quality of life and even cultural identities.
While many alien species were historically introduced on purpose for their perceived benefits to people, the IPBES report finds that the negative impacts of those that do become invasive are enormous for nature and people.
Examples of such impacts include the ways that North American beavers (Castor canadensis) and Pacific Oysters (Magallana gigas) change ecosystems by transforming habitats — often with severe consequences for native species.
Nearly 80 per cent of the documented impacts of invasive alien species on nature’s contributions to people are also negative, especially through damage to food supplies, such as the impact of the European shore crab (Carcinus maenas) on commercial shellfish beds in New England and the damage caused by the Caribbean false mussel (Mytilopsis sallei) to locally important fishery resources in India.
Similarly, 85 per cent of documented impacts negatively affect people’s quality of life — for instance through health impacts, including diseases such as malaria, Zika and West Nile Fever, spread by invasive alien mosquito species like Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegyptii.
Lantana (Lantana camara), a flowering shrub, and the black rat (Rattus rattus) are the second and third most widespread globally, with far-reaching impacts on people and nature.
The report shows that 34 percent of the impacts of biological invasions were reported from the Americas, 31 percent from Europe and Central Asia, 25 percent from Asia and the Pacific, and about seven percent from Africa.