Coast KZN

10 Oct 2023

Invasive species causing billions in economic damage – is climate change to blame?

Dominc Naidoo (IOL) Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA). This parrot's feather beetle larvae is being farmed in order to combat invasive plant species in the City of Cape Town.

The Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), often referred to as the IPCC for biodiversity, has highlighted the alarming economic consequences of invasive species. These creatures, ranging from plants to mammals, marine animals, and insects, are creating environmental havoc worldwide.

The Invasion of Alien Species

The list of invasive species includes Asian hornets, American crayfish, ragweed, Japanese knotweed, as well as seemingly cute creatures like squirrels and raccoons. Their proliferation is driven by factors such as globalisation and climate change, leading to the destruction of crops and forests, the spread of diseases, and threats to the overall quality of life on Earth.

Contributing Factors

The report, based on over 13,000 contributions from 86 experts in 49 countries, identifies climate change and human activity as the primary causes of the rise in invasive species. These species are often unintentionally or even deliberately transported by humans. The report predicts that warmer temperatures, increasingly observed in regions like Europe, will worsen the challenges posed by these invasive species.

Approximately 75% of the negative impacts recorded in the report are concentrated on land, especially in forests, woodlands, and farmland. As theĀ climate continues to change, it is expected that the issues caused by invasive species will intensify, posing greater threats to ecosystems and economies.

The invasion of alien species is akin to a tidal wave, and thus far, humanity has struggled to contain it. Addressing this issue requires a concerted effort to mitigate climate change and adopt more responsible practices regarding the introduction and spread of species by humans.

As the world grapples with the consequences of invasive species, scientists and policymakers face a growing challenge in preserving biodiversity and protecting ecosystems in the face of climate change.