The “Recent advancements in the risk screening of freshwater and terrestrial non-native species” Special Issue in the open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal NeoBiota is now open for submissions. The deadline for submission is 30 April 2022, with the issue scheduled for publication in August 2022.
Update: The deadline for submission has been extended to 30 April 2022, with the issue expected to be published in August 2022.
The new special issue is expected to collate prominent contributors from the field of invasive ecology, thereby addressing existing gaps in the knowledge about both freshwater and terrestrial non-native species and their management.
The editors note that despite the current efforts and measures to monitor and tackle the spread of non-native species, and especially those posing imminent threat to local biodiversity and ecosystems, further expansion of such populations has increasingly been recorded in recent years. Of special concern are developing countries, where legislation for controlling non-native species is still lacking.
A major problem is that – as of today – we are still missing on risk screening studies needed to provide evidence for the invasiveness potential of many non-native species across several taxonomic groups, which would then be used to support specific conservation efforts. Unfortunately, this is particularly true for species inhabiting the world’s biodiversity hotspots, point out the editors.
Risk-based identification of non-native species is an essential process to inform policy and actions for conservation and management of biodiversity. Previously published papers on risk screening of aquatic non-native species, and especially those using the most widely-employed ‘-ISK’ decision-support toolkits, have attracted mounting interest from the wider scientific community.
In a new study, published in the peer-reviewed open-access scholarly journal Neobiota, scientists estimated the desire of Australians to own non-native and/or illegal alien pets and the major trends in this practice. In addition, the team suggests ways to improve biosecurity awareness in the country.
Unsustainable trade of species is a major pathway for the introduction of invasive alien species at distant localities and at higher frequencies. It is also a major driver of over-exploitation of wild native populations. In a new study, published in the peer-reviewed open-access scholarly journal Neobiota, scientists estimated the desire of Australians to own non-native and/or illegal alien pets and the major trends in this practice. In addition, the team suggests ways to improve biosecurity awareness in the country.
Over the last two decades, Australia has been experiencing an increased amount of non-native incursions from species prominent in the international pet trade, such as rose-ringed parakeets, corn snakes and red-eared sliders. On many occasions, these animals are smuggled into the country only to escape or be released in the wild.
In general, the Australian regulations on international pet trade are highly stringent, in order to minimise biosecurity and conservation risks. Some highly-desirable species represent an ongoing conservation threat and biosecurity risk via the pet-release invasion pathway. However, lack of consistent surveillance of alien pets held, legally or otherwise, in Australia remains the main challenge. While there are species which are not allowed to be imported, they are legal for domestic trade within the country. Pet keepers have the capacity to legally or illegally acquire desired pets if they are not accessible through importation, and the number of such traders is unquantified.
Since keeping most of the alien pets in Australia is either illegal or not properly regulated, it is really difficult to quantify and assess the public demand for alien wildlife.
“We obtained records of anonymous public enquiries to the Australian Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment relating to the legality of importation of various alien taxa. We aimed to investigate whether species desired in Australia were biased towards being threatened by extinction, as indicated by broader research on pet demand or towards being invasive species elsewhere, which would indicate trade-related biosecurity risks”,
According to the research team’s analysis, pets desired by Australians are significantly biased towards threatened species, invasive species and species prominent in the U.S. pet trade.
“This novel finding is of great concern for biosecurity agencies because it suggests that a filtering process is occurring where illegally smuggled animals may already be “pre-selected” to have the characteristics that are correlated with invasive species,”
warns Mr. Adam Toomes.
However, the bias towards species already traded within the U.S. suggests that there is potential to use this as a means of predicting future Australian desire, as well as the acquisition of pets driven by desire. Future research from the Invasion Science & Wildlife Ecology Group at The University of Adelaide will investigate whether Australian seizures of illegal pets can be predicted using U.S. trade data.
Toomes A, Stringham OC, Mitchell L, Ross JV, Cassey P (2020) Australia’s wish list of exotic pets: biosecurity and conservation implications of desired alien and illegal pet species. NeoBiota 60: 43-59. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.60.51431
Non-native parrots can cause substantial agricultural damage and threaten native biodiversity, although impacts vary strongly depending on where these parrots have been introduced. Brought to Europe as pets, escaped or released parrots have established numerous wild populations across Europe. Tens of thousands of ring-necked and monk parakeets make up the bulk of Europe’s parrots, but several more species are gaining a foothold too.
A pan-European team of researchers, conservationists, wildlife managers and policy-makers worked together under the umbrella of ParrotNet, an EU COST Action, and have reviewed the available evidence on parrot damage, concluding that measures to prevent parrots from invading new areas are paramount for limiting future harm. Their findings are published in the open-access journal NeoBiota.
Introduced parrots can damage the environment, but severe impacts remain rare and localised. So far, most reports of damage are linked to the widespread and locally abundant ring-necked and monk parakeets. Studies show that in their native ranges, both species can and regularly do inflict large crop losses, but in Europe, expectations of comparable widespread and severe damage to agriculture have so far failed to materialise.
In Europe, competition with native species presents a more serious problem, especially for ring-necked parakeets as they can compete with native species for food and breeding sites. Meanwhile, in the Americas, monk parakeets are notorious for the damage their stick nests cause to power infrastructures by catching fire, yet very little evidence for such problems exist in Europe.
Reported impacts for other parakeet species in Europe are virtually nonexistent, probably because these species have been introduced more recently and currently exist as relatively small and localised populations.
“It was already well known that introduced parakeets can cause damage. There is the oft-cited example of a vineyard in Surrey (UK) where ring-necked parakeets caused a loss of thousands of bottles of wine. In Seville (Spain), the same parakeet species is threatening an endangered native bat population by evicting them from their roosting tree cavities. Our review of all reported impacts however shows that such severe damage is not the norm. In most cases, parakeets introduced to Europe only do limited damage and, for example, about half of the studies focusing on competition between introduced parakeets and native species explicitly report no evidence of impact.”
The study also highlights that differences in the type of damage, and the way they are reported and summarised influences the outcomes of invasive species impact assessments.
The generalised threat level that invasive species pose is often based on their worst known impacts, whilst the capabilities of a species to do damage often requires specific circumstances. While this is relevant information for identifying those invaders that can potentially have major impacts, it is not necessarily representative of the impacts the species is likely to have when introduced to a new area. Similarly, including damage reports from the native range or from other invaded ranges typically results in higher threat level estimates compared to what actually has been observed in Europe.
What can be done to mitigate parakeet impacts?
Based on the results of the study, the ParrotNet members also published a ‘policy brief’, summarising and discussing the implications of their findings for policy makers and wildlife managers. Their recommendations include stricter regulation aimed at preventing parakeet introductions, rapid response when emerging populations are detected and better dissemination of information to the public about the impact parakeets can have. For example, using bird feeders that parakeets cannot access may help reduce the abundance of these birds in cities.
“What should be done to minimise damage by invasive parakeets is ultimately up to policy-makers. But as scientists, we stress that our work again highlights that the best way to combat invasive species is to prevent their introduction and spread. Parakeet populations have already been successfully removed, for example, from islands such as the Seychelles, demonstrating that it is possible to stop them when prompt and decisive action is taken by governments. For the already established and large parakeet populations that can be found across parts of Europe, there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to the problems they may locally pose. More applied research is needed to find cost-effective and acceptable methods to reduce parakeet impacts in those areas where they do cause damage”.
White RL, Strubbe D, Dallimer M, Davies ZG, Davis AJS, Edelaar P, Groombridge J, Jackson HA, Menchetti M, Mori E, Nikolov BP, Pârâu LG, Pečnikar ZF, Pett TJ, Reino L, Tollington S, Turbé A, Shwartz A (2019) Assessing the ecological and societal impacts of alien parrots in Europe using a transparent and inclusive evidence-mapping scheme. NeoBiota 48: 45-69. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.48.34222
While exploring the way alien species invade cities around the world, South African PhD student Ashlyn L. Padayachee (University of KwaZulu-Natal, UKZN) and her supervisors, Serban Proches (UKZN) and John Wilson (SANBI and Stellenbosch University) remember suddenly being stricken.
What they realised was that while cities were gradually starting to prepare for climate change, their responses to invasions were rather reactive. Even though management focused on widespread invasive species, which were currently having the most negative impacts on native biodiversity, the researchers noted that if those decision makers had only targeted the next highly damaging invaders ahead of their arrival, the associated costs would have greatly decreased.
Consequently, the team developed a methodology, based on three key aspects: priority species, points of first introduction and sites of naturalisation, in order to identify the most probable and concerning invasive species for Durban (eThekwini in KwaZulu Natal), a coastal city in South Africa. Furthermore, their work, published in the open-access journal Neobiota provides decision makers from around the world with a new tool, that is easy to use and adjustable to the specificity of different cities.
Firstly, the researchers identified cities with a similar climate to Durban and used existing alien species watch lists, environmental criteria and introduction pathways to identify species, which are not present in South Africa, but are considered of unacceptable risk of invasion. The team continued by figuring out which of those selected species are likely to have pathways facilitating their introduction to the city and developed a climatic suitability model for each. Finally, the scientists linked the climate and pathway information, so that they could identify sites within Durban to be considered as a focus for the contingency planning for particular species.
As a result, the authors identified three alien species as priorities for Durban: Alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) and the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta).
In terms of points of introductions, the data highlighted the Durban Harbour, especially for the red imported fire ant. Plant nurseries and garden centres, as well as pet and aquarium shops were also identified as important sites for the three studied species. Additionally, suitable habitats located near the points of introduction, such as river systems and built infrastructure, were found in need of monitoring.
In conclusion, the implementation of prioritisation schemes to consider the three aspects (species, pathways, and sites) allows managers to focus resources on those species which pose a greater risk of invasion and impact.
“This will only ever be one part of a broad range of biosecurity efforts, but it is one where, we believe, we can be prepared,” comment the authors.
Padayachee AL, Proches S, Wilson JRU (2019) Prioritising potential incursions for contingency planning: pathways, species, and sites in Durban (eThekwini), South Africa as an example. NeoBiota 47: 1-21. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.47.31959
The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) has led an international team of non-native species (NNS) specialists who have compiled a list of recommendations to improve the way in which the impact of a range of invasive pests – such as the tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta – are assessed, potentially helping towards ensuring greater global food security.
Lead authors Dr Pablo González-Moreno and Dr Marc Kenis, Senior Researchers at CABI are two of 89 NNS experts from around the world who have collaborated on the paper, published in NeoBiota, that calls for ‘more robust and user-friendly’ impact assessment protocols to predict the impacts of new or likely invaders as well as to assess the actual impact of established species.
The manuscript is the outcome of an enormous collective effort using 11 different protocols to assess the potential impact of 57 NNS to Europe yielding a total of 2614 separate assessments. This unique dataset has allowed the authors to identify which are the main factors increasing the robustness of protocols and provide recommendations on how the robustness and applicability of protocols could be enhanced for assessing NNS impacts.
As reported in the study, entitled ‘Consistency of impact assessment protocols for Non-Native Species’, Dr González-Moreno and fellow scientists – from 80 institutions including the UK-based Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), University of Milan, University of Bern and Queens University Belfast – argue that ‘assessment of the realised or potential impacts of NNS is particularly important for the prioritization of management actions.’
Millions of the world’s most vulnerable people face problems with invasive weeds, insects and plant diseases, which are out of control and have a major impact on global prosperity, communities and the environment. Developing countries are disproportionately affected.
The scientists believe that, currently, the large variety of metrics adopted to measure the impacts of invasive species undermines direct comparison of impacts across species, groups of taxa, localities or regions. They go on to argue that in general we have ‘little understanding of the patterns in consistency of impact scores across assessors and protocols, and more importantly, which factors contribute to high levels of consistency.’
Dr González-Moreno said,
“There is an increasing demand for robust and user-friendly impact assessment protocols to be used by professionals with different levels of expertise and knowledge.
Robust NNS impact protocols should ideally result in accurate and consistent impact scores for a species even if applied by different assessors, as long as they have the adequate expertise in the assessed species and context.
Several key factors should be taken into account when selecting or designing an NNS risk assessment protocol, such as the aim, the scope, the consistency and the accuracy of the outcomes, and the resources available to perform the assessment – for example time or information available.”
In compiling a list of recommendations for improved NNS impact protocols, Dr González-Moreno and the team of researchers used 11 different protocols to assess the potential impact of 57 species not native to Europe and belonging to a very large array of taxonomic groups (plants, animals, pathogens) from terrestrial to freshwater and marine environments.
They agree that using a ‘5-level scoring, maximum aggregation method and the moderation of expertise requirements’ offers a good compromise to reducing inconsistencies in research findings without losing discriminatory power or usability.
Dr González-Moreno added, “In general, we also advise protocol developers to perform sensibility tests of consistency before final release or adoption. This is crucial as if a protocol yields inconsistent outcomes when used by different assessors, then it is likely that decisions taken based on the results could be variable and disproportionate to the actual impacts.”
González-Moreno P, Lazzaro L, Vilà M, Preda C, Adriaens T, Bacher S, Brundu G, Copp GH, Essl F, García-Berthou E, Katsanevakis S, Moen TL, Lucy FE, Nentwig W, Roy HE, Srėbalienė G, Talgø V, Vanderhoeven S, Andjelković A, Arbačiauskas K, Auger-Rozenberg M-A, Bae M-J, Bariche M, Boets P, Boieiro M, Borges PA, Canning-Clode J, Cardigos F, Chartosia N, Cottier-Cook EJ, Crocetta F, D’hondt B, Foggi B, Follak S, Gallardo B, Gammelmo Ø, Giakoumi S, Giuliani C, Guillaume F, Jelaska LS, Jeschke JM, Jover M, Juárez-Escario A, Kalogirou S, Kočić A, Kytinou E, Laverty C, Lozano V, Maceda-Veiga A, Marchante E, Marchante H, Martinou AF, Meyer S, Michin D, Montero-Castaño A, Morais MC, Morales-Rodriguez C, Muhthassim N, Nagy ZA, Ogris N, Onen H, Pergl J, Puntila R, Rabitsch W, Ramburn TT, Rego C, Reichenbach F, Romeralo C, Saul W-C, Schrader G, Sheehan R, Simonović P, Skolka M, Soares AO, Sundheim L, Tarkan AS, Tomov R, Tricarico E, Tsiamis K, Uludağ A, van Valkenburg J, Verreycken H, Vettraino AM, Vilar L, Wiig Ø, Witzell J, Zanetta A, Kenis M (2019) Consistency of impact assessment protocols for non-native species. NeoBiota 44: 1-25. https://doi.org/10.3897/neobiota.44.31650
The paper is based upon work from the COST Action TD1209: ALIEN Challenge. COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a pan-European intergovernmental framework. The mission of COST is to enable scientific and technological developments leading to new concepts and products and thereby contribute to strengthening Europe’s research and innovation capacities.
Dr Pablo González-Moreno was supported by the CABI Development Fund (with contributions from ACIAR (Australia) and DFID (UK) and by Darwin plus, DPLUS074 ‘Improving biosecurity in the SAUKOTs through Pest Risk Assessments’.
Thought to be Canada’s most promising potential defense against the brown marmorated stink bug – a globally spreading agricultural pest native to Asia – the samurai wasp (another species from Asia and natural parasitoid of the former) has been considered for future release in the country in recent years.
Native to China, Japan, Taiwan and the Korean peninsula, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) has already established in areas of the United States and Europe and continues to spread. It is highly damaging to a wide range of vegetable and fruit crops, including peaches, apples, pears, soybeans, cherries, raspberries and pears. Curiously, those infested areas in both the USA and Europe also saw the arrival of the samurai wasp (Trissolcus japonicus) amid assessments whether releasing samurai wasps in the wild should be warranted.
“Classical (importation) biological control of invasive pests, where natural enemies are imported and intentionally introduced from a pest’s area of origin, involves years of research to assess risks and benefits of proposed introductions, followed by regulatory approval,” explain the researchers in their paper.
“However, there is increasing recognition that unintentional introductions of natural enemies are probably common, introducing a high level of uncertainty to the regulatory process for biological control introductions.”
In two consecutive years (2017 and 2018), the team of Dr Abram placed a total of 1,496 egg masses (41,351 eggs) of brown marmorated stink bugs at 16 field sites in coastal and interior British Columbia – already known to host large and well-established breeding populations of the species – in order to monitor and identify the local enemies of the pest. Later on, when the researchers retrieved the eggs and studied their parasitoids, they found three native wasp species, but their parasitism appeared largely unsuccessful.
According to the scientists, as well as previous studies conducted in both the USA and Europe, native wasps would often lay their eggs in those of the brown marmorated stink bug, but their larvae would rarely complete development. Even when they emerged, they were unlikely to produce their own offspring.
In one of the egg masses, however, the scientists noted that all eggs had been parasitized and, moreover, each produced a viable wasp. Later, the offspring would register a success of >90% in parasitizing brown marmorated stink bug eggs. Following these observations, the team identified these parasitoids as samurai wasps.
While the species is currently being redistributed within some US states on purpose, samurai wasp populations advancing to other localities suggest that much like its host, the parasitoid is also becoming a “global invader”. Therefore, it is quite possible that the samurai wasps in British Columbia have simply crossed a distance of >400 km from nearby Washington State, and the wasp is still at the early stages of its establishment in Canada.
“Nonetheless, the detection of this exotic biological control agent in Canada concurrently with regulatory review of its intentional importation and release is emblematic of the current uncertainty around regulatory control on the movement of biological control agents across borders,” comment the authors of the study.
Field surveys and extensive analyses are currently underway to track the establishment and biological control impact of the samurai wasp in Canada and also reveal how the species ended up in British Columbia.
Abram PK, Talamas EJ, Acheampong S, Mason PG, Gariepy TD (2019) First detection of the samurai wasp, Trissolcus japonicus (Ashmead) (Hymenoptera, Scelionidae), in Canada. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 68: 29-36. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.68.32203