The global movement of goods and people, in its modern form, has many unwanted side effects. One of these is that animal and plant species travel around the world with it. Often they fail to establish themselves in the ecosystems of the destination areas. Sometimes, however, due to a lack of effective management, they multiply to such an extent in the new environment that they become a threat to the entire ecosystem and economy. Thousands of alien species are currently documented worldwide. A quarter of them are in highly vulnerable, aquatic habitats.
So far, research has mainly focused on the ecological consequences of these invasions. In a first global data analysis, 20 scientists from 13 countries led by GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel have now compiled the economic costs caused specifically by aquatic invaders. “We come to the conclusion that invasive aquatic species that have established themselves in their new habitats have cost at least 345 billion US dollars since the 1970s,” says Dr Ross Cuthbert from GEOMAR. He is lead author of the study, which has now been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.