Need to combat invasive alien species stressesed

MONTREAL, Canada– Indonesia, supported by the ASEAN Member States, made a statement on the issue of the proliferation of invasive alien species (IAS) during the 22nd Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 22) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on July 4, 2018.

Indonesia, represented by Dr Gono Semiadi of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), stressed that the key to prevent spread of alien species is a strong border control.

Weak control mechanism, lack of knowledge on various invasive species, their life cycles and their pathways for introduction, and unclear related law and regulation are among the problems that require common attention. Efforts to address these issues at national and regional level need to be supported.

While thanking the CBD Secretariat for all its guidance in abating the proliferation of IAS, Indonesia also wished to include on the mandate of the proposed expert group on IAS to address the issue of well-established invasive alien species spread in certain regional areas. The Golden Apple Snail (Ampullariidae) was mentioned as an example of a well-established invasive species in Southeast Asia. This species is also considered as the 40th worst alien species in Europe and is included in the Top 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species. Indonesia furthered that other well-established species, particularly in Viet Nam, include mimosa trees, water hyacinth, and caterpillars. Lao PDR supported the ASEAN statement on IAS while seeking international assistance on the locust infestation in her country.

Majority of Parties to the Convention expressed the need for capacity building, technology transfer, and coordination and exchange of information among institutions on this biodiversity issue.

Catclaw mimosa ( Mimosa pigra) (L) and Golden Apple Snail (Ampullariidae)
Dr Gono Semiadi of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) during the convention. – PHOTOS: IISD/ENB

Keeping “intruders” out from the ASEAN region

In the ASEAN, the damage caused by IAS, as well as the programmes designed to eradicate them, translates to significant economic and monetary losses. According to a study (Nghiem et al, 2013), that used cost-benefit analysis and other models, the total annual loss equivalent to the economic and environmental impacts of harmful non-indigenous species in the region was estimated at USD33.5 billion. This was further broken down into losses and costs to the agricultural sector (USD 23.4–33.9 billion), human health (USD 1.4–2.5 billion), and the environment (USD 0.9–3.3 billion).

“Invasive alien species are threats to the balance of natural ecosystems. Their presence poses risk as unwanted predators of endemic species. Many of the introduced species have become pests; disturbing ecosystems, and affecting livelihoods of many resource-based income earners depending on ecosystem services such as on agriculture. Case in point is the golden apple snail which is an introduced species in Lao PDR and the Philippines. These IAS are now menacing rice production in these areas,” said Dr Theresa Mundita S Lim, SBSTTA Chair and ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Executive Director.

Invasive alien species have common characteristics: they can thrive under adverse conditions, reproduce and grow rapidly, have high dispersal ability and adaptability to new conditions, and survive on various food types and in a wide range of environmental conditions. As these invasive species prevail in their new environment, indigenous species are unable to compete for space and food or are prey for the IAS, and eventually become extinct. Vital ecosystem functions, such as pollination, soil regeneration, and nutrient and water cycling functions, among others, eventually deteriorate. For example, a common myna can drive away native birds by occupying their nesting areas. Mimosa pigra, a thorny shrub with buoyant seeds that grow abundantly in mudflats, can drive away migratory birds feeding and nesting in these areas.- IISD/ENB