A landmark global scientific report, released overnight by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, has found that invasive species cost the global economy over $423 billion every year, with costs having at least quadrupled every decade since 1970.
The report finds that invasive species have played a role in 60% of global plant and animal extinctions and that prevention measures are underfunded and not prioritised, particularly for environmental risks.
With Australia a global hotspot for invasive species impacts on wildlife, the Invasive Species Council have called on the Albanese government to use the report as an opportunity to step up the funding and focus for environmental biosecurity, including fully funding the fire ant eradication program.
‘This report makes it clear that the Albanese government’s commitment to “no new extinctions” will be no more than a slogan without increased focus and funding to prevent the next wave of invasive species driven extinctions,’ said Lyall Grieve, Conservation and Biosecurity Analyst for the Invasive Species Council.
“This is a landmark scientific report which paints a stark picture of the environmental devastation that invasive species have caused around the world. It also highlights that, as an island continent, Australia’s unique plants and animals are at particular risk.
‘Our geographic isolation means we are home to species that occur nowhere else on earth, but this unique web of life is also very vulnerable to invaders like feral cats, fire ants or new fungal diseases like myrtle rust.
‘Over 80% of Australia’s mammal extinctions were caused by invasive species, and invasive species are likely to be a primary driver of 85% of the next round of predicted vertebrate extinctions over the next 20 years.
‘It is deeply troubling that there are now more introduced plant species than there are native species in Australia.
‘The good news in the report is that the global success of eradication programs on islands are a beacon of how we can turn back the tide and achieve positive results with commitment and investment.
‘Australia has demonstrated success with island eradications, including the recent eradication of black rats on Lord Howe Island.
A new nationally coordinated island recovery program focusing on eradicating invasive species across our over 8,000 islands could build on this success to protect our biodiversity.
‘If we are to genuinely protect and restore our native wildlife and ecosystems, then stopping the next wave of invasive species driven extinctions must be a priority. That will take focus and serious new funding.
‘The failure of the current biosecurity system to take environmental risks as seriously as industry priorities like foot-and-mouth disease or varroa mite must also change.
‘The reform and investment task is urgent. Business as usual will lead to escalating costs from invasive species to our environment, economy and way of life,’ said Mr Grieve.
The report, from the United Nations Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), was produced by 86 experts from 49 countries and details the impacts of invasive flora and fauna on ecosystems globally.
More than 37,000 alien species have been introduced by human activities to regions around the world, the report found. Of these, 3,500 are considered invasive alien species, causing negative impacts on nature and humans through their establishment and spread.
Australia has lost more native mammal species than any other continent, with more than 100 species listed as either extinct or extinct in the wild.
Our research published earlier this year found there has been an average of 4.5 probable extinctions a decade since the 1960s, with around three extinctions a decade mainly attributable to invasive species.