, Volume 148, Issue 1, pp 5-15

First online:

As the world gets smaller, the chances of invasion grow

  • Jeffrey A. McNeelyAffiliated withBiodiversity Policy Coordination Division, IUCN-The World Conservation Union Email author 

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While the issue of invasive alien species has important biological components, economic factors such as global trade deserve much greater attention for several reasons. First, virtually all of our planet’s ecosystems have a strong and increasing anthropogenic component that is being fed by increasing globalisation of the economy. Second, people are designing the kinds of ecosystems they find productive or congenial, incorporating species from all parts of the world through quicker and more efficient means of transportation. And third, growing travel and trade, coupled with weakening customs and quarantine controls, mean that people are both intentionally and inadvertently introducing alien species that may become invasive. The great increase in the introduction of alien species that people are importing for economic, aesthetic, accidental, or even psychological reasons is leading to more species invading native ecosystems, with disastrous results: they become invasive alien species (IAS) that have significant deleterious effects on both ecosystems and economies. This paper examines some of the important non-biological dimensions of the IAS problem, including historical, economic, cultural, linguistic, health, sociological, management, legal, military, ethical, and political dimensions. These are addressed in terms of the causes, consequences, and responses to the problem of IAS. These dimensions of IAS are fundamental, and successfully addressing the problem will call for greater collaboration between different economic sectors and among a wide range of disciplines. The Convention on Biological Diversity, the negotiations of the World Trade Organisation, and many other international agreements offer important opportunities for addressing the complex global problems of IAS through improved international cooperation.

Key Words

economic factors human dimensions invasive alien species trade