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Assessment Report on Invasive Alien Species and their Control


The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has recently released an “Assessment Report on Invasive Alien Species and their Control.”


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Highlights of the Report
  2. Invasive Alien Species
  3. Impacts of Invasive Alien Species

Major Highlights of the Report:

  • Extensive Alien Species: The report identifies the presence of approximately 37,000 alien species introduced by human activities across diverse regions and biomes.
  • Invasive Threat: Over 3,500 of these introduced species are categorized as invasive alien species, posing substantial threats to local ecosystems.
  • Invasive Categories: Among these invasive species, about 6% are plants, 22% are invertebrates, 14% are vertebrates, and 11% are microbes, each known to have invasive characteristics.
  • Top Invasives: The water hyacinth holds the top position globally as the most widespread invasive alien species on land. Lantana, a flowering shrub, and the black rat rank second and third in terms of global invasiveness.
  • Intentional Introduction: Many invasive alien species were intentionally introduced for perceived benefits in sectors like forestry, agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, and the pet trade, with insufficient consideration of their adverse impacts on biodiversity and local ecosystems.
  • Extinction Role: Invasive alien species have played a significant role in driving 60% of documented global plant and animal extinctions. They are recognized as one of the five primary drivers of biodiversity loss, alongside land and sea use change, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, and pollution.
  • Negative Impacts: Nearly 80% of the documented impacts of invasive species on nature’s contributions to people are negative.
  • Regional Distribution: The negative impacts of biological invasions are distributed across regions, with 34% reported from the Americas, 31% from Europe and Central Asia, 25% from Asia and the Pacific, and approximately 7% from Africa.
  • Habitat Affected: Most negative impacts occur on land, especially in forests, woodlands, and cultivated areas.
  • Island Vulnerability: Invasive alien species have the most detrimental effects on islands. On over 25% of all islands, the number of alien plants now exceeds that of native plants.
  • Impact on Native Species: A significant 85% of the impacts of biological invasions on native species are negative.

Invasive Alien Species:

Invasive alien species, also known as invasive exotic species or non-native species, are organisms introduced to regions or ecosystems outside their native range. These species establish self-sustaining populations and often outcompete native species, disrupting ecosystem balance and causing negative impacts.

Factors Contributing to the Rise of Invasive Species:
  • Global Trade and Travel: Increased international trade and travel have unintentionally facilitated the movement of species across borders. Cargo ships, airplanes, and vehicles can carry invasive species within cargo, ballast water, or attached to surfaces, aiding their spread.
  • Climate Change: Elevated temperatures and shifts in precipitation patterns create environments suitable for invasive species. Altered seasonal timings can disrupt native species’ life cycles, making them vulnerable to invasive competitors and predators.
  • Deliberate Introductions: Introducing non-native species intentionally for purposes like gardening, landscaping, and pest control can lead to invasions if these species escape cultivation.
  • Historical Factors: Some invasive species, like the Black Rat introduced to Australia in the late 1800s, have historical origins associated with shipwrecks and industries like pearling. These species are now recognized as some of the “World’s Worst” invasive species.

Impacts of Invasive Alien Species:

Invasive species can have profound and often detrimental effects on ecosystems, economies, and human health. Here are some key impacts:

  • Competition with Native Species: Invasive species can outcompete native species for essential resources like food, water, and habitat, leading to a decline or extinction of native species.
  • Predation: Some invasive species become predators of native species, causing declines in prey populations. This can disrupt ecological food webs and ecosystems.
  • Ecosystem Disruption: These disruptions have far-reaching consequences for ecosystem stability and resilience, often altering the natural balance of ecosystems.
  • Economic Costs: The annual economic costs of invasive alien species have been steadily increasing, exceeding USD 423 billion globally in 2019. Costs can include damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and fisheries.
  • Infrastructure Damage: Species like Zebra mussels can clog water pipes and infrastructure, leading to expensive repairs and maintenance.
  • Reduction of Food Supply: Many invasive species impact food supplies, such as the Caribbean false mussel damaging fisheries in Kerala, India.
  • Spread of Diseases: Invasive species like Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti can spread diseases like malaria, Zika, and West Nile Fever, posing risks to human health.
  • Impact on Fisheries: For example, water hyacinth in Lake Victoria led to the depletion of tilapia fish, significantly impacting local fisheries and livelihoods.

Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

  • Establishment: Formed as an independent intergovernmental body in 2012.
  • Objective: Deliver unbiased scientific evaluations on Earth’s biodiversity, ecosystems, and their societal benefits.
  • Inspiration: Modeled after IPCC and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
Scientific Guidance for Policymakers
  • Core Role: Furnishes policymakers with objective scientific assessments.
  • Focus Areas: State of knowledge about biodiversity, ecosystems, and their human benefits.
  • Tools and Methods: Offers strategies to safeguard and sustainably utilize natural assets.
Distinct Autonomy from United Nations
  • Autonomy: Not affiliated with the United Nations.
  • Secretariat Services: UNEP provides administrative support post 2013, upon IPBES Plenary request and UNEP Governing Council approval.
Global Membership and Inclusivity
  • India’s Involvement: India is a participating member nation.

Organizational Structure

  • Plenary: Governing body comprises representatives from IPBES member States, convening annually.
  • Observers: States yet to join IPBES, CBD, other biodiversity-related conventions, relevant UN entities, and pertinent organizations.
  • Bureau: Oversees administrative functions; headed by IPBES Chair, four Vice-Chairs, and additional officers.
  • Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP): Five experts from each of the five UN regions overseeing IPBES scientific and technical endeavors.
  • Stakeholders: Encompasses all contributors to and users of IPBES outputs.
  • Expert Groups & Taskforces: Selected experts responsible for executing IPBES assessments and other deliverables.
  • Secretariat (including Technical Support Units): Ensures IPBES efficiency by supporting Plenary, Bureau, and MEP; also executes Platform’s work and administrative tasks.

-Source: Down To Earth

February 2024