Unwelcome visitors

21 June 2016

Published in PNAS*: New CSIRO research into the global impacts of invasive species has found that the chances of invasive species entering Australia are relatively high, although the overall threat to agriculture is lessened due to our robust management practices.

The map shows countries threatened by invasive species image: CSIRO

The first analysis of invasive species' threat to global crop production on a country-by-country basis examined the worldwide distribution of nearly 1300 invasive pests and pathogens, international trade flows, and each country's main agricultural production crops, to determine potential invasion risks and impact.

Rusts are a common fungal disease of plants, including many of Australia’s cereal and horticultural crops image: CSIRO

Several Sub-Saharan African countries with economies disproportionately depending on agriculture were found to be most at risk. China and the USA, where a high number of pests are already present, pose the greatest threat. Because of the scale of their agriculture export industries, these countries could experience the greatest absolute cost from further species invasions. However, their ability to manage or mitigate the impact means that their agriculture industries are not as vulnerable as those of developing countries.

According to the researchers, whose work was supported by the Plant CRC, the pressures from invasive species will further intensify as trade volumes continue to increase and more trade connections are made between countries.

* Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Story based on information provided by the CSIRO