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Alien species on the rise worldwide

New research shows rates of alien species introduction are higher than ever

Date:
February 15, 2017
Source:
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum
Summary:
Although it was known that the number of alien species increased during the last decades, it remained unclear whether or not the accumulation of alien species has already reached a point of slow-down. A new study on the topic has an answer now: for all groups of organisms on all continents, the number of alien species has increased continuously during the last 200 years.
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A large population of American pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) in Hungary. This toxic plant is native to North America and was grown for ornamental and medicinal purpose in Europe.
Credit: Petr Pyšek, The Czech Academy of Sciences

Although it was known that the number of alien species increased during the last decades, it remained unclear whether or not the accumulation of alien species has already reached a point of slow-down. Dr Hanno Seebens from Senckenberg, Germany, first author a new study on the topic has an answer now: "For all groups of organisms on all continents, the number of alien species has increased continuously during the last 200 years. For most groups, even the rate of introduction is highest recently. Barring mammals and fishes, there are no signs of a slow-down and we have to expect more new invasions in the near future."

His outlook comes at the end of a large collaborative effort in which 45 scientists from all over the world established a database of the date an alien species was first detected in a region outside the species' native range. Using more than 45,000 of these first records of more than 16,000 alien species, they analysed the development of alien species accumulation during the last centuries.

They found that 37% of all recorded alien species have been introduced between 1970-2014 and thus recently. At its peak 585 new species were recorded within one year. This corresponds to more than 1.5 new alien species per day globally. "As the date of first record is not available for most alien species, these numbers are clearly underestimating the full extent of alien species introductions," says Dr. Franz Essl from the University of Vienna, Austria, senior author of the study.

The trends of increase vary among taxonomic groups, which can be attributed to human activities. "We observe a distinct increase in first record rates of vascular plants in the 19th century, probably as a result of the intensification of horticulture. The rates of new introductions of other organisms such as algae, molluscs or insects increased steeply after 1950. This is most likely a consequence of the ongoing globalisation of trade," explains Seebens.

The unprecedented increase in alien species numbers can lead to an increase in regional species richness. However, these come at the cost of a variety of negative impacts on native ecosystems, the global homogenisation of floras and faunas, and the global extinction of native biota. Therefore various legislations are currently in force globally attempting to mitigate the introduction of new alien species. "However our results show that the past efforts have not been effective enough to keep up with ongoing globalisation. There is an urgent need to implement more effective prevention policies at all scales," concludes Essl.


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Materials provided by Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hanno Seebens, Tim M. Blackburn, Ellie E. Dyer, Piero Genovesi, Philip E. Hulme, Jonathan M. Jeschke, Shyama Pagad, Petr Pyšek, Marten Winter, Margarita Arianoutsou, Sven Bacher, Bernd Blasius, Giuseppe Brundu, César Capinha, Laura Celesti-Grapow, Wayne Dawson, Stefan Dullinger, Nicol Fuentes, Heinke Jäger, John Kartesz, Marc Kenis, Holger Kreft, Ingolf Kühn, Bernd Lenzner, Andrew Liebhold, Alexander Mosena, Dietmar Moser, Misako Nishino, David Pearman, Jan Pergl, Wolfgang Rabitsch, Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Alain Roques, Stephanie Rorke, Silvia Rossinelli, Helen E. Roy, Riccardo Scalera, Stefan Schindler, Kateřina Štajerová, Barbara Tokarska-Guzik, Mark van Kleunen, Kevin Walker, Patrick Weigelt, Takehiko Yamanaka, Franz Essl. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14435 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14435

Cite This Page:

Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "Alien species on the rise worldwide: New research shows rates of alien species introduction are higher than ever." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215084444.htm>.
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. (2017, February 15). Alien species on the rise worldwide: New research shows rates of alien species introduction are higher than ever. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 29, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215084444.htm
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "Alien species on the rise worldwide: New research shows rates of alien species introduction are higher than ever." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170215084444.htm (accessed May 29, 2017).

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