Biological Invasions

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 391–398 | Cite as

The link between international trade and the global distribution of invasive alien species

  • Michael I. WestphalEmail author
  • Michael Browne
  • Kathy MacKinnon
  • Ian Noble
Original Paper


Invasive alien species (IAS) exact large biodiversity and economic costs and are a significant component of human-induced, global environmental change. Previous studies looking at the variation in alien species across regions have been limited geographically or taxonomically or have not considered economics. We used a global invasive species database to regress IAS per-country on a suite of socioeconomic, ecological, and biogeographical variables. We varied the countries included in the regression tree analyses, in order to explore whether certain outliers were biasing the results, and in most of the cases, merchandise imports was the most important explanatory variable. The greater the degree of international trade, the higher the number of IAS. We also found a positive relationship between species richness and the number of invasives, in accord with other investigations at large spatial scales. Island status (overall), country area, latitude, continental position (New World versus Old World) or other measures of human disturbance (e.g., GDP per capita, population density) were not found to be important determinants of a country’s degree of biological invasion, contrary to previous studies. Our findings also provide support to the idea that more resources for combating IAS should be directed at the introduction stage and that novel trade instruments need to be explored to account for this environmental externality.


Environmental externality Exotic species Regression tree Species richness Trade and environment 



Many of the data used for this paper have come from the World Resources Institute’s EarthTrends database. We thank them for this invaluable resource. We would also like to thank Peter Baxter for helpful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael I. Westphal
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael Browne
    • 3
  • Kathy MacKinnon
    • 2
  • Ian Noble
    • 2
  1. 1.AAAS Science and Technology Policy FellowOffice of International Affairs, United States Environmental Protection AgencyWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Environment DepartmentThe World BankWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Invasive Species Specialist Group, World Conservation Union (IUCN)University of AucklandAucklandUSA

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