#01 2024

NRF-SAEON plays key role in the most comprehensive assessment of invasive alien species ever undertaken

By Dr Ryan Blanchard, Manager, Fynbos Node, NRF-SAEON

The assessment report for Invasive Alien Species and their Control  was recently approved by representatives of the 143 Member States of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The assessment finds that alongside dramatic changes to biodiversity and ecosystems, the global economic cost of invasive alien species exceeded $423 billion annually in 2019, with costs having at least quadrupled every decade since 1970.

Dr Ryan Blanchard, manager of the Fynbos Node, participated as a lead author on the chapter on drivers in the four-year assessment. He remarked: “The first meeting of authors was held in Japan in 2019, where about 70 authors from more than 35 countries participated. Unfortunately, this was the only in-person meeting the assessment team had due to COVID. Despite this drawback, the assessment went ahead with teams working online.” South Africa was represented by several authors affiliated to the Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B) at Stellenbosch University.

The Assessment Report on Invasive Alien Species and their Control is the most comprehensive assessment ever carried out of invasive alien species around the world. The Summary for Policymakers of the Invasive Alien Species Report released by IPBES presents the key messages and policy options.

The presence of the highly invasive Indian myna in South Africa is a concern as their footprint is spreading each year.

The report focused on the drivers, impacts and management options related to invasive alien species. This state-of-the-art assessment of the available literature presents a comprehensive understanding of invasive alien species across all taxa and all geographic areas.

Ryan says: “The report findings are useful for governments to mobilise resources to prevent further introductions and negative impacts. It is an especially important call for scientists and society to increase the data needed to better understand the impacts, pathways and drivers of invasive alien species.”

Ryan acknowledges SAEON’s role in increasing the knowledge related to invasive alien species. “SAEON has played an important role in contributing to the knowledge of invasive species impacts on water resources, biodiversity and ecological processes such as fire. The research platforms play a critical role in reducing the knowledge gap between science and policy. However, there is much more to be done when it comes to monitoring extent and spread and impacts and control.”

The Summary for Policymakers and report chapters can be found on the IPBES website. Further information can be found here.

C·I·B affiliates at the IPBES author meeting in Tsukuba, Japan, 19–23 August 2019. From left: PhD candidate Maria Loreto Castillo (C·I·B), Prof Llewellyn Foxcroft (SANParks), Dr Sebataolo Rahlao (SANBI), Prof Sven Bacher (University of Fribourg), Dr Ryan Blanchard (representing CSIR at the time) and Prof Laura Meyerson (University of Rhode Island).