Invasive species on increase, no signs of slowing down
In line with predictions for climate change, the number of species shifting range to new areas is on the increase.
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology's (CEH) ecologist Professor Helen Roy, and her colleagues on the international team, believe globalisation could also be fuelling an unprecedented increase in invasive species.
The researchers looked at data kept on non-native species around the world, including records kept by the British government. Using records from these databases around the world, the ream created a single worldwide database with information on 16,000 species.
Having developed the single database, the scientists established that more than a third (37%) of all recorded invasive species were introduced to new areas since 1970.
In fact, a record 585 new species were recorded in a single year - 2004. This includes the Harlequin ladybird, which has been a focus of study for Professor Roy, and the Asian hornet, which sparked a surveillance operation when a nest was discovered in Gloucestershire last year.
Professor Helen Roy said, "The rapid escalation in species arriving in new regions of the world has been concerning ecologists for many years. One example is the Harlequin ladybird which is threatening other species within the invaded range.
"People from across the UK have themselves become actively involved in helping to report and record species such as the Harlequin ladybird through citizen science initiatives such as the UK Ladybird Survey.
This is proving hugely valuable in helping us to understand the ecology of invasive non-native species.
"It is really important that we work together both through global research collaborations, as demonstrated by the international team contributing to this study, but also across society with people taking part in surveillance on the ground for new arrivals such as the Asian hornet."
Lead author Dr Hanno Seebens, from the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Germany, added, "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." ■
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