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article imageNew Study Looks at Causes for Surge of Invasive Species

By Martin Laine     Jun 7, 2010 in Environment
Whether plants, animals, or fungi, invasive alien species appear to be on some kind of massive move. In Europe alone some 11,000 alien invasive species have been identified. The question is why, and why now?
The answer has usually been attributed to climate change, and to changes to an ecosystem’s land cover. Now a study published in the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that wealth and population density may have more to do with the introduction of alien species than any other factors.
“We’re finding that human population and accumulated wealth are important drivers of this problem,” said Susan Shirley, a research assistant in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University, and co-author of the study.
There has been a particularly noticeable surge in the introduction of alien species over the past 50 years, at the same time that there has been enormous growth in international trade, travel, and transport. The study looked at Europe, a crossroads for international travel as well as an area of wealth and high population density.
An earlier study that looked only at bird species in Europe, found a high number of alien species being introduced into the western European nations, where trade and travel was relatively free during the Cold War years. During the same period, there were far fewer alien species introduced into the eastern bloc countries, where travel and trade was much more restricted.
In this latest study, the researchers were able to make fairly accurate predictions on the prevalence of invasives based on the demographic information about a particular region.
“The overwhelming effect of human factors, wealth and demography, found for several taxonomic groups translates to human activities responsible for enhancing biological invasions,” according to the report.
The report does not call for curtailing international trade or travel, but it does suggest that government agencies need to increase their vigilance of goods traveling to different parts of the world to help stem the introduction of potentially damaging invasives.
More about Invasive species, Oregon state univesity, Europe
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