We will see a huge increase of alien species by 2050

Invasive species cause a huge problem. Local animals are not well-adapted to compete with them and it may cause extinction in some cases. Introduction of alien species wrecks entire ecosystems and yet, as this new international study has revealed, the number of alien species is set  to increase globally by 36% by the middle of this century, compared to 2005.

Rose-ringed Parakeet in Brussels – these kinds of birds should not be living in Western Europe. Image credit: Jonas Petraitis via Wikimedia

An international team of researchers developed a mathematical model to calculate how many more aliens would be expected by 2050. This model included such data as  source pools, dynamics of historical invasions and so on. Scientists assumed that the situation remained the same – no extra conservation or prevention methods were implemented. This model showed that the number of alien plant and animal species is going to increase by 36 % worldwide by 2050, compared to 2005.

Different regions are going to be affected in different ways, according to this model. For example, the biggest increase in alien species is likely to be seen in Europe (2500 new alien species or 64 % increase  by the middle of the century) and the smallest in Australia. Other hotspots for invasive species are within the temperate latitudes of Asia, North America, and South America. Scientists predict that a huge portion of those invasive species are going to be insects, arthropods and birds. In fact, by the middle of this century alien arthropod and bird species will be arriving faster than before.

There are no visible measures being taken to prevent this process from taking place in the near future. However, scientists say that something needs to be done. Dr Hanno Seebens, lead author of the study, said: “stricter regulations and their rigorous enforcement could greatly slow the flow of new species. The benefits of such measures have been shown in some parts of the world. Regulations are still comparatively lax in Europe, and so there is great potential here for new measures to curtail the arrival of new aliens.”

The huge problem of alien species is that they are a threat to biodiversity. They compete with local species for the limited resources and locals simply do not have the tools to repel the new competition. Scientists warn that alien species are one of the main drivers of extinctions of animals and plants. One of the main drivers of the increase of alien species is climate change – animals that typically live in warmer climates are migrating north, because there are no more winters up there.

Scientists are asking policy makers to take action in order to prevent this increase in alien species. But it remains to be seen what can be done. Further research, hopefully, will reveal methods of the preservation of biodiversity in the face of this mass invasion.


Source: UCL

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