May 25, 2009 While the implications of climate change for biodiversity have been widely recognised, the insidious effect of invasive alien species (IAS) on global biodiversity stays under the radar. Last Friday was the United Nations’ International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) and the International Convention on Biological Diversity sees IAS as “one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, and to the ecological and economic well-being of society and the planet”. “Increasing globalisation has led to greater movement of new species around the world, and native species killed or stressed by global change will all too often be replaced by these weeds and feral animals,” says CSIRO Biodiversity Research Director, Dr Mark Lonsdale. CSIRO Podcast
“All our efforts in managing the impact of climate change on biodiversity could be brought undone by invasive species,” says Lonsdale. “Increasing globalisation has led to greater movement of new species around the world, and native species killed or stressed by global change will all too often be replaced by these weeds and feral animals.
“Invasive species are already a major cause of biodiversity loss and we need new tools to tackle them. “Because of this CSIRO is putting considerable resources into research on IAS and their effect on Australia’s biodiversity, as well as actively participating in international groups such as DIVERSITAS and the Global Invasive Species Programme.”
Current CSIRO research targets invasive species already in Australia as well as trying to anticipate and avert the next generation of IAS. The threats are diverse and hard to predict so excellence in risk-based research to make sense of the complexity is essential.
“Our research ranges from weeds, rabbits, carp and risk analysis of potential invasive species to biological collections that underpin much of the research,” Dr Lonsdale said.
“Our weeds research, for example, ranges from individual weeds such as lantana to the resistance of our ecosystems to weed invasion.”
The Australian National Herbarium, with its collection of native and exotic plants, underpins much of Australia’s weeds research and provides a vital resource when a new invasive plant species is found. Dr Lonsdale stressed that invasive species are one of many direct threats to global biodiversity and, in Australia, CSIRO is responding to the magnitude of the challenge.