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Study finds biosecurity interventions are inadequate — newly emerging alien species continue to accelerate globally

Animal species found in nature aren’t exactly living in harmony. Researchers from the University College London (UCL) have now discovered that the number of new alien species invasions are still rising globally, and that its overall impact may be difficult to predict down the line. The study, which was led by scientists from UCL, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center (Bik-F), and the University of Vienna and published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), showed that a global database of more than 45,000 records were analyzed to find out more about the dynamics of how alien species spread around the world.

  • Up to 16 percent of all animal species on Earth could eventually qualify as potential alien species. What’s more, if they end up invading new regions, they could cause serious unforeseen consequences.
  • The global database with more than 45,000 records showed the first invasions of over 16,000 known alien species from 1500 until 2005. This data was analyzed to identify certain alien species.
  • The researchers noted that a full one-fourth of the records of apparent alien species – species that earlier weren’t found anywhere as aliens – only came about between the years 2000 and 2005. They described this as a “worryingly high proportion.”
  • The researchers pointed out the rather glaring fact that the apparent emergency of all these new alien species is rather unexpected. As the study’s lead author Tim Blackburn put it, “…it seems the pool of new aliens is far from ‘dry.'”
  • Statistical models suggest a possible reason: the incorporation of new regions as a source of potential alien species were likely to be a compounding factor. The researchers then estimated that there could be even more alien species that are just waiting to come out.

Understanding what really causes these occurrences and how to best counteract them will be instrumental in aiding the safety and security of ecosystems worldwide.

Journal Reference

Seebens H., Blackburn T. M., Dyer E. E., Genovesi P., Hulme P.E., Jeschke J. M., et. al. GLOBAL RISE IN EMERGING ALIEN SPECIES RESULTS FROM INCREASED ACCESSIBILITY OF NEW SOURCE POOLS. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201719429 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1719429115

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