Invasive species – vigilance is essential

Highlighting the devastation due to invasive species and the imperative of investment in their control remains as relevant as ever according to several recent articles – especially given the impact of alien species on native species, ecosystem services, human health, and food production.

A study published in ‘Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment’ found that invasive alien species were the biggest single factor, by far, in animal extinctions. The study examined 953 extinctions from the IUCN’s Red List, and found that invasives were involved in the loss of 33% of the listed animals and 25% of the plant species. Hunting and harvesting, the next biggest single factor, was responsible for 19% of animal extinctions. Native species contributed to 3% of animal and 5% of plant extinctions.

A guest editorial in ‘Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment’ looks broadly at the impact of invasive species. It promotes the need to press for investment in the development of technologies to prevent and control incursions, and for remediation of the impact of invasive species.

Part of the work in pressing for action to manage invasive species is maintaining focus in relevant research and discussions about conservation and human well-being.

An example is retaining an emphasis on native species (ahead of non-native species) in biodiversity assessments for conservation purposes; as promoted by an international team in ‘PLOS Biology’. Similarly, in a ‘Crossroads. Open Letters to IUCN Members’ blog, Professor Daniel Simberloff claims that treating native and non-native species in the same manner would be misguided and potentially disastrous for conservation goals and the provision of ecosystem services.

Another example is an analysis in ‘Conservation Biology’ of ‘compassionate conservation’, which has been promoted as an alternative to conventional conservation. The authors conclude that ‘compassionate conservation does not offer the best welfare outcomes to animals and is often ineffective in achieving conservation goals’.

Against this background, the Foundation for Rabbit Free Australia is committed to press-on for greater awareness of the impact of invasive rabbits, their on-ground control, and the development and refinement of technical control options; seeking Australian landscapes that are free of the nation’s worst vertebrate pest, the European wild rabbit.

Invasive rabbits are a threat to native plants and animals, nature conservation and food production; as well as soil and water resources.

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