sugar cane toad

Invasive species growing at ‘unprecedented’ rates: What you need to know

Invasive species destroy forests, damage crops and cause extinction of animals – making them a growing threat to the world.

The number of invasive alien species is increasing at an “unprecedented rate,” and more than 3,500 of them are dangerous, causing biodiversity loss worldwide, says a United Nations-backed report.

A report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), has warned that the proliferation of invasive alien species and their negative impacts are likely to grow in the coming years and pose a serious threat to ecosystems, food security and livelihoods around the world. .

A group of 86 researchers from 49 countries released a four-year assessment of the global impact of invasive species, they found that the economic costs now total 423 billion dollars every year, foreign invaders play a key role in 60 percent of recorded plants and recorded plants. extinction of animals.

Here’s what you need to know about invasive species:

What is an invasive species?

Invasive species are animals, fish and plants that cause significant damage to crops, wildlife and human health around the world. Some prey on native animals, while others compete for space and food or the spread of disease.

When a species that is not native to a certain area is established there, it reproduces quickly and causes damage, it invades.

From the water hyacinth that pollutes Lake Victoria in East Africa, to the rats and brown snakes that destroy all kinds of birds in the Pacific, to the mosquitoes that spread Zika, theyellow fever, idengue and other diseases, tens of thousands of exotic animals have grown far away. their place of origin.

How do invasive species spread?

People often move animals, plants and other organisms from their habitats to new areas, either accidentally or on purpose, by sending plants from distant places to grow as plants or bringing in a non-native animal to hunt a local pest. Others carry cargo or ship water.

According to the report, increasing levels of global trade and human movement facilitate the intentional and accidental movement of species beyond their native range, and the threat to natural habitats and species worldwide.

Cane toad (Rhinella marina) near a wet habitat in Australia [File: Joshua Prieto/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

Where are most invasive species found?

According to a report supported by the United Nations, 34 percent of the effects of biological attacks were reported from the Americas, 31 percent from Europe and Central Asia, 25 percent from Asia and the Pacific, and about 7 percent from Africa.

Foreign plants were very harmful to the islands, and now the number of foreign plants exceeds the number of local plants by more than 25 percent in all the islands.

What are some examples of invasive species?

Zebra and quagga mussels: Clown and quagga mussels invaded the US Great Lakes in the 1980s, clogging waterways and out-competing native molluscs. Now, they are spreading westward through rivers, lakes and bays, threatening waters as far away as the Pacific coast and Alaska.

Sugar cane frog: Australia has been fighting for years to get rid of the invasive cane toad. Native to South and Central America, this animal was first introduced to the state of Queensland in 1935 to control beetles that were destroying profitable sugarcane crops. It soon ran wild and expanded its territory across the northern and western coasts.

Lionfish: Lionfish thrive in many marine habitats, from coastal mangrove forests to deep-water reefs, and prey on many species of small fish. In the Caribbean, they reduced the number of small fish on reefs by up to 80 percent in just five weeks.

Hyacinth: The hyacinth that once covered 90 percent of Lake Victoria in Africa – paralyzing traffic and fishing, destroying aquatic life, preventing access to the dam, and breeding mosquitoes – is thought to have been introduced by Belgian colonial officials in Rwanda as an ornamental garden flower before making it. its way down the Kagera River in the 1980s.

Asian long-horned beetle: The pesky bug, native to China, Japan and Korea is believed to have been introduced to North America and Europe via wooden packaging materials. They lay their eggs in trees and eat their bark, which makes it difficult for nutrients to reach other parts of the tree.

Longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae) are leafhoppers.

How can we help fight invasive species?

Public awareness is important in preventing the spread of many invasive plants and animals. Some ways to do this are:

Cleaning your shoes and socks after walking.

Using traditional bait while fishing.

Reporting the presence of invasive species.

Using local firewood as a simple act of moving firewood can transfer critters.

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