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Report Highlights Impact of Invasive Alien Species on Biodiversity Loss

Drishti Mail: The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has released its comprehensive “Assessment Report on Invasive Alien Species and their Control,” revealing alarming findings about the impact of invasive species on biodiversity loss. The report, drawing on the expertise of 86 experts from 49 countries over a four-year period, highlights that human activities have introduced approximately 37,000 alien species, including plants and animals, to various regions and biomes worldwide. Of these, over 3,500 are invasive alien species, playing a significant role in 60% of global plant and animal extinctions.

Invasive alien species are identified as one of the five major direct drivers of global biodiversity loss, alongside land and sea use changes, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, and pollution.

The report emphasizes that the number of alien species introduced through human activities has been steadily increasing for centuries, but the rates have surged dramatically in recent times due to increased human travel, trade, and the expansion of the global economy.

While not all alien species become invasive, a substantial proportion does, posing significant risks to ecosystems and species. Approximately 6% of alien plants, 22% of alien invertebrates, 14% of alien vertebrates, and 11% of alien microbes are known to be invasive.

The report also highlights that many invasive alien species were intentionally introduced for perceived benefits in areas such as forestry, agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, or as pets. These species, introduced without considering their potential negative impacts, have led to harmful consequences.

Negative impacts of invasive species are widespread, with nearly 80% of documented impacts on nature’s contributions to people being negative. Invasive species have contributed to 60% of global animal and plant extinctions, with at least 218 invasive alien species responsible for over 1,200 local extinctions.

The report singles out the water hyacinth as the world’s most widespread invasive alien species on land, followed by the lantana shrub and the black rat. In terms of economic costs, the global economic impact of invasive alien species exceeded $423 billion annually in 2019, a figure expected to rise as the global economy expands and human activity intensifies.

One of the most common impacts of invasive alien species is the reduction of food supply, affecting fisheries and agriculture. Additionally, invasive species can spread diseases such as malaria, Zika, and West Nile Fever.

Climate change further compounds the issue by potentially expanding the range of invasive species and intensifying their impact.

The IPBES report underscores the need for concerted efforts to manage and mitigate the impacts of invasive alien species, highlighting that 80% of countries have included targets related to invasive species in their national biodiversity plans. However, only 17% address the issue specifically in national legislation.

The report’s release comes following an agreement by governments to reduce the rate of introduction and establishment of invasive alien species by at least 50% by 2030 as part of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

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