Invasive species movement threatening global food
BONN, Germany — The rapid rise of invasive species is a threat to global food systems and is costing more than $423 billion yearly — a total that has increased four-fold every decade since 1970, said a new report released last week by a global environmental consortium.
Humans have introduced more than 37,000 invasive species to regions worldwide, and more than 3,500 of them threaten both agriculture and quality of life, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services said Sept. 4. The body of more than 140 governments, including the United States, studies biodiversity and ecosystems for global policymakers.
“Invasive alien species pose a substantial threat to livelihoods and food security around the world,” said Qu Dongyu, director-general of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization in a statement. “They can, for example, manifest as destructive crop or forest pests or displace species targeted by fisheries. They are an important driver of biodiversity loss and hence a threat to the various ecosystem services that support agricultural production and sustainable livelihoods.”
Among the report’s findings:
• Two hundred new invasive species are recorded yearly.
• More than a third of all impacts by invasive species are reported in the Americas — the most affected region of the world.
• Three-quarters of those impacts occur on land, mostly in forests, woodlands and cultivated land.
• Invasive alien species have contributed to 60 percent of extinctions worldwide, and 90 percent on islands.
The report lists examples of invasive damage on regions across the planet: European shore crabs on commercial shellfish beds in New England, Caribbean false mussels on Indian fishery resources, and mosquitoes spreading diseases, such as Zika and West Nile Fever, to humans.
The issue of invasive species is well-known among Delmarva farmers, who have felt the rising pressure of new pests attacking crops, said Ben Beale, a University of Maryland Extension agent in St. Mary’s County. The brown marmorated stink bug continues to bedevil vegetables and grain. Spotted wing drosophila has been such a burden on small fruit growers that some have abandoned raising fruits like raspberries in the fall when the fly populations are at their highest, he said. Fruit farmers — grape growers particularly — are also struggling in some cases to control attacks from spotted lanternflies, which arrived in Maryland in 2018. All of those pests are native to Asia and traveled to North America through various means, including ships.
“We seem to be living in an increasingly connected world,” Beale said. “The key is to be able to identify invasive species quickly and react quickly, and I think we’ve done a good job with that.”
To that end, the report said the number of countries with national invasive alien species checklists has tripled, and globally, more than 60% of all biological control programs succeed in containing invasive alien plants and invertebrates. The report predicted that the number of alien species would rise by more than a third from 2005 to 2050.