by Staff Writers
Cambridge UK (SPX) May 04, 2017
We are all becoming increasingly familiar with the impacts of invasive species. Knotweed from Japan can destroy building foundations, zebra mussels from eastern Europe can clog-up drinking water pipes, and an Asian fungus is causing ash tree die-back in our forests. Now an international team of scientists has identified how our rapidly changing world will bring new types of invaders, often from very unexpected places.
Invasive non-native species are among the greatest drivers of biodiversity loss on the planet and cost the British economy Pounds 1.7bn each year. "Our study found that environmental change, new biotechnology and even political instability are all likely to result in new invasions that we should all be worried about" said Dr. David Aldridge of Cambridge University, who hosted the meeting of 17 scientists from across four continents.
Globalization of the Arctic, emergence of invasive microbial pathogens, advances in genomic modification technology, and changing agricultural practices were judged to be among the 14 most significant issues potentially affecting how invasive species are studied and managed over the next two decades. "We have identified some potential game-changers" said Prof. Anthony Ricciardi from McGill University, who led the study.
Globalization of the Arctic
The loss of sea ice is also creating a major new corridor for international shipping between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, which will affect invasion risks throughout the Northern Hemisphere. "The gold rush has begun for major expansion of human activities in the Arctic, with the potential for large-scale alien species transfers" says Dr. Greg Ruiz (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center).
Emergence and spread of invasive microbial pathogens
Invasive microbes have devastated populations of animal and plants that have had no evolutionary exposure and thus no immunity to them.
Recent examples include: the chytrid fungus "Bsal" that is killing salamanders in Europe; the white-nose fungus that is destroying bat colonies in North America; and 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 a burgeoning threat to biodiversity, agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
Biotechnological advances and applications
"The push to use genetically modified agents to control invasive species will continue to grow", says Prof. Hugh MacIsaac (University of Windsor), "and with it will come public opposition and the view that we are opening Pandora's Box".
Changing agricultural practices
But possibly the biggest threat of all is the growing use by agribusiness of soil bacteria and fungi to increase crop production. "The cultivation and 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
"Denialism in science is not new, but its growth in the context of invasive species is 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 it is too late."
Palangkaraya, Indonesia (AFP) May 2, 2017
A rare albino orangutan has been rescued on the Indonesian part of Borneo island where villagers were keeping the white-haired, blue-eyed creature in a cage, a protection group said Tuesday. In an extremely unusual discovery, authorities picked up the female, estimated to be five years old, in a remote village in Kapuas Hulu district. The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), whic ... read more
University of Cambridge
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