We are all becoming increasingly familiar with the impacts of invasive species. Knotweed through Japan can destroy building foundations, zebra mussels through eastern Europe can clog-up drinking water pipes, as well as an Asian fungus is actually causing ash tree die-back in our forests. today an international team of scientists has identified how our rapidly changing world will bring fresh types of invaders, often through very unexpected places.
Invasive non-native species are among the greatest drivers of biodiversity loss on the planet as well as cost the British economy £1.7bn each year. “Our study found which environmental change, fresh biotechnology as well as even political instability are all likely to result in fresh invasions which we should all be worried about” said Dr. David Aldridge of Cambridge University, who hosted the meeting of 17 scientists through across four continents.
Globalization of the Arctic, emergence of invasive microbial pathogens, advances in genomic modification technology, as well as changing agricultural practices were judged to be among the 14 most significant issues potentially affecting how invasive species are studied as well as managed over the next two decades. “We have identified some potential game-changers” said Prof. Anthony Ricciardi through McGill University, who led the study.
Globalization of the Arctic
Until today, the Arctic has been among the least accessible regions on the planet, escaping extensive alien species invasions like those which have affected temperate as well as tropical areas of the entire world. However, the rapid loss of sea ice is actually opening the region to shipping, oil as well as mineral extraction, fishing, tourism, as well as shoreline development—all of which facilitate introductions of alien species.
The loss of sea ice is actually also creating a major fresh corridor for international shipping between the Pacific as well as Atlantic Oceans, which will affect invasion risks throughout the Northern Hemisphere. “The gold rush has begun for major expansion of human activities from the Arctic, with the potential for large-scale alien species transfers” says Dr. Greg Ruiz (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center).
Emergence as well as spread of invasive microbial pathogens
Disease-causing bacteria, water molds, fungi as well as viruses are being given increasing opportunities to spread into regions where they never previously existed as well as where they may attack fresh hosts. They can also undergo rapid genetic improvements which cause previously innocuous forms to become virulent.
Invasive microbes have devastated populations of animal as well as plants which have had no evolutionary exposure as well as therefore no immunity to them. Recent examples include: the chytrid fungus “Bsal” which is actually killing salamanders in Europe; the white-nose fungus which is actually destroying bat colonies in North America; as well as sea star wasting disease along the Pacific coast of North America, considered to be among the worst wildlife die-offs ever recorded. The proliferation of microbial pathogens is actually a burgeoning threat to biodiversity, agriculture, forestry as well as fisheries.
Biotechnological advances as well as applications
Advances in genomic modification tools hold both promise as well as challenges for managing invasive species. Very recently, genetically modified versions of an invasive mosquito were released from the Florida Keys in a controversial attempt to interfere with the mosquito’s reproductive life cycle, thereby preventing the item through vectoring the spread of invasive Zika, Dengue as well as Chikungunya viruses to humans. “The push to use genetically modified agents to control invasive species will continue to grow”, says Prof. Hugh MacIsaac (University of Windsor), “as well as with the item will come public opposition as well as the view which we are opening Pandora’s Box”.
Changing agricultural practices
The team also identified changing agricultural practices as a potential source of invasion threats. Virtually unregulated fresh agricultural crops as well as practices open the door to potentially disastrous unintended consequences. An Asian cricket species reared for “cricket flour”—all the rage from the USA – has already established from the wild. Worse, as a disease ravages This kind of species, farmers have imported some other kinds of crickets which might well invade in nature.
although possibly the biggest threat of all is actually the growing use by agribusiness of soil bacteria as well as fungi to enhance crop production. “The cultivation as well as distribution of ‘growth enhancing’ microbes could cause some crop plants or plant species residing near agricultural fields to become invasive pests” says Prof. Daniel Simberloff (University of Tennessee).
Invasive species denialism
a different challenge is actually public perception of invasion science. Scientific evidence on invasive species impacts is actually under attack, with much of the opposition value-based rather than science-based. This kind of form of science denialism involves a rejection of peer-reviewed evidence along with an attempt to re-frame, downplay or even deny the role of invasive alien species in global environmental change.
“Denialism in science is actually not fresh, although its growth from the context of invasive species is actually especially worrying for people trying to conserve unique native biodiversity” says Prof. Tim Blackburn (University College London). “Manufacturing doubt about the negative impacts of invasive species can delay mitigating action to the point where the item is actually too late.”
Denial of invasive species threat worries scientists
Anthony Ricciardi et al, Invasion Science: A Horizon Scan of Emerging Challenges as well as Opportunities, Trends in Ecology & Evolution (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.03.007