HomeTop StoriesHow invasive species threaten humanity's future

How invasive species threaten humanity’s future

  • According to a UN report, invasive species cost the world more than $423 billion annually.
  • From New York to Antarctica, non-native plants and wildlife are on the rise – and we’re contributing to the problem.
  • Here are 5 of the most obvious examples of how invasive species are currently affecting all of us.

From Antarctica to New York City, invasive species are becoming a growing problem around the world – and we are directly contributing to it.

A United Nations report on Monday describes how humans have unleashed more than 37,000 invasive species into new territories, crushing competition and threatening the future of humanity as we know it.

“I know this is going to sound grand,” Peter Stoett — a professor at Ontario Tech University who co-authored the new UN report with 85 other experts from 49 different countries around the world — told the Washington Post before becoming the specter of invasive poses a ‘tremendous threat’ to all of ‘human civilization’.

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Since 1970, the cost of invasive species invasions has quadrupled every decade, and this new report estimates they now cost the world more than $423 billion annually, an estimate that Stoett qualified as “extremely conservative.”

It’s not just money we lose. Scientists say invasive species are among the top five causes of biodiversity loss worldwide (alongside other environmental problems such as pollution and climate change). The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the body that produced the report, said: “The serious global threat posed by invasive alien species is underappreciated, underestimated and often unacknowledged” as it affects everything, of our drinking water. for the availability of food and the possibilities for mosquito reproduction.

If you’re still in doubt, here are five obvious ways you can physically see the threat of invasive species in real time.

Spotted lanternflies from China jump all over the east coast

Three spotted lanternflies stand on a railing next to the Hudson River as the sun sets on the skyline of Lower Manhattan in New York City on August 26, 2023 in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Spotted lanternflies watching the New York City skyline from New Jersey (August 2023).

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Spotted lanternflies, native to China, were first observed in the US in 2014, in the state of Pennsylvania.

Since then, the United States Department of Agriculture has recorded them traveling to at least thirteen other states, including New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio.

Lanternflies and their eggs are great hitchhikers, and humans help them thrive in the eastern U.S.

Spotted lanternfly eggs are displayed on a tree in Inwood Hill Park on September 26, 2022 in New York City.  Spotted lanternflies, an insect native to Southeast Asia that scientists say arrived in the US seven years ago and in New York City in 2020, feed on the sap of more than 70 plant species, making them susceptible to disease and destruction.

Spotted lanternfly eggs attached to a tree in Inwood Hill Park in New York City (September 26, 2022).

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Scientists at Cornell University suspect that the main reason lanternflies have not yet been eradicated in the US is that they are constantly being accidentally transported by humans, whether flying in their cars or piggybacking on wood that is then moved.

Without human assistance, lanternflies have a jumping and flying range of only about three to four miles.

The recent fires in Maui were also fueled by a non-native invasive grass species

Marine One, carrying US President Joe Biden, flies over wildfire damage in Lahaina on the island of Maui, Hawaii, on Aug. 21, 2023.  The Bidens are expected to meet with first responders, survivors and local officials after the deadly wildfires in Maui.

U.S. President Joe Biden surveyed fire damage from over Maui in Marine One on August 21, 2023.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Guinea pig grass is “unfortunately everywhere you go,” Melani Spielman, O’ahu’s Waimea Valley volunteer coordinator, said in a YouTube video posted earlier this year.

“It’s that super-tall grass you see all along the roadsides, high up in the mountains,” she said.

As we saw in the deadly wildfires that ravaged Maui last month, killing people and wildlife, this tall grass can spark fires. In turn, it helps kill more native species that are not as adapted to fire.

In addition to being a fire hazard, the plant also has tiny hairs at the base of the plant that can aggravate your skin if you rub against it. Some people call it “green panic grass.”

Tall Guinea Grass is native to parts of Africa and the Middle East, and was introduced to Hawaii in the 18th century

6-year-old Tya, a chimpanzee, looks out of the grass during a bushwalk at the Chimpanzee Conservation Center (CCC) on November 30, 2015 in Somoria, Guinea

The grass is native to parts of Africa and the Middle East, including this chimpanzee’s home in Somoria, Guinea.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Ranchers living in Hawaii brought the grass there because it was a drought-resistant way to keep their animals fed.

It is important to emphasize that most non-native and introduced plants are not invasive. The authors of the new UN report estimate that only about 6% of non-native plants and 11% of non-native microbes are invasive species.

However, invasive species are a major cause of animal and plant extinctions, contributing to more than half (60%) of them.

The most common invasive species in the world is a beautiful, purple-flowered aquatic plant from South America

Blooming water hyacinths in a wetland near the Piuval Lodge in the northern Pantanal, state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Flowering water hyacinths are native to Brazil.

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

From the lakes of Kenya to the waters of Bangladesh and the US state of Florida, the water hyacinth, native to South America, has caused serious problems for local fishermen.

It can block entire waterways, crowding out other plants, and it’s also a great breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Zebra mussels from Europe have threatened drinking water and power plants in the U.S. Great Lakes region since they were introduced in the 1980s

The September 23, 2011 photo shows a man holding a handful of zebra mussels near Kingston, Canada, that have invaded Lake Ontario.  Zebra mussels from the Caspian Sea, accidentally introduced to North America, are becoming a real scourge, releasing toxic chemicals into the Great Lakes, Canadian biologists say.  The mussels hitchhiked to Canada on the ballasts of freighters that arrived on the continent in 1986.  And in the last twenty years, these miniature-sized creatures have proliferated and can be found in more than a third of the Great Lakes.

Zebra mussels near Lake Ontario in Canada.

Kilian Fichou/AFP via Getty Images

Zebra mussels can cling to anything from a ship’s propeller to a rock, outnumbering the local mussels in the Great Lakes region.

Experts think zebra mussels were probably introduced to North America when large boats traveling from Europe discharged water from across the Atlantic.

Now the clams regularly clog power plant pipes, causing millions of dollars in damage. They once forced to shut down a water pump that supplied drinking water to 50,000 Michigan residents.

Not even Antarctica is safe from the threat of invaders as a non-native bluegrass

stalks of green and white meadow grass

Poa annua is an annual bluegrass species native to Eurasia.

Hu Weibin/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Scientists are concerned that as the poles warm, invasive grasses like the common Eurasian bluegrass called “poa annua” could completely displace Antarctica’s local grasses and kill them off forever.

But experts assure that we can take preventive measures.

“The good news is that for almost every context and situation, there are management tools, governance options, and targeted actions that actually work,” said Anibal Pauchard, a professor at the University of Concepción in Chile, who co-chaired the conference. new UN report.

“Prevention is definitely the best and most cost-effective option, but eradication, containment and control are also effective in specific contexts.”

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