‘Unwelcome’ mat for invasive species

UC DAVIS (US) — Screening potentially invasive wild animals to prevent them from being introduced to the U.S. could yield net benefits from about $54,000 to $141,000 per species, according to a new analysis.

Federal, state, and local governments spend tens of millions of dollars annually on efforts aimed at controlling invasions by such animals as the Burmese python, the Asian carp, and the red lionfish.

“Managing the introduction of non-indigenous species is becoming a major goal of policy makers,” says Michael Springborn, assistant professor of environmental science and policy at the University of California, Davis and the study’s lead author.

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“This study integrated biology and economics to tackle the question of how we as a nation balance the benefits of trade against the risk of invasive species becoming established.”

The study, published online in the journal Ecological Economics, details how globalization in recent decades has resulted in a dramatic increase in trade and travel, causing both intentional and accidental transport of species beyond their native areas. The United States receives hundreds of millions of non-native animals each year, representing thousands of different wildlife species.

Once established, introduced species can multiply to levels that can be harmful to economies, agriculture, the environment, and animal and human health. Because of that, policymakers are increasingly concerned about better managing the introduction and establishment of non-native species, the study says.

For several years, Congress has considered mandating stricter risk-assessment procedures, but legislation has stalled. Proposed legislation in the Senate would broaden the scope of the 111-year-old Lacey Act, the wildlife trade law that currently restricts the importation of 25 “injurious species.”

Co-authors from the University of Chicago and Auburn University contributed to the study.

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