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Grup de Recerca en Biologia Animal

Alternative future for biological invasions

The future of biological invasions is not only driven by global trade and climate and human land use change, but also by socioeconomic developments and technological innovations. This is the results of a recently published paper led by Núria Roura-Pascual (Universitat de Girona) within the project AlienScenarios (https://alien-scenarios.org/) and published in Sustainability Science (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11625-021-00963-6).

Besides the impacts cause by some invasive alien species, current existing global scenarios (narratives of how the world may develop) have neglected biological invasions. In this paper, an international group of experts on invasion biology and other topically relevant research explored a wide range of plausible scenarios regarding the future of biological invasions at the global level through to 2050. They developed 16 contrasting futures based on four sets of drivers (four scenarios by each set of drivers) and then grouped them into four main clusters based on their similarities/differences. Two clusters were associated with higher levels of invasions and two others were characterized by lower levels of invasions.

  • Scenarios with low level of invasions were characterized by high levels of social and environmental awareness. Environmental regulation is strong, but its effectiveness weak given the decentralized nature of public administration. Global trade is reduced and technological developments are low.
  • Scenarios with a medium level of invasions present a balanced regional and global governance system. Global trade is high, but compensated by the use of technology to mitigate social and ecological impacts of invasions. Environmental challenges are taken seriously, and regulations are enforced.
  • Scenarios with high level of invasions are dominated by an irresponsible and inefficient use of natural resources, guided by short-term regional interests. There is a deceleration in global trade, but the lack of effective biosecurity measures does not hamper the introduction of alien species.
  • Scenarios with very high level of invasions are dominated by global economic interests, often disregarding most environmental needs. Productivity and trade are high. Technological advances are responsible for high consumption of natural resources and unregulated introductions of alien species.

Overall, this expert-based analysis indicates that biological invasions are not only associated with increasing trade and economic growth. How society develops (e.g. economic and social development, IAS mitigation strategies) is also relevant to increase or reduce the risk posed by invasive alien species. Analyses of how trade and transport dynamics shape biological invasions have provided a starting point, but the study indicates that understanding the future of biological invasions requires analysing how variables such as technological innovation, urbanization, wealth inequality, social stability, biosecurity and sustainability policies interact with one another to determine biological invasions. Realistic assessments of future biological invasions require more interdisciplinary research examining a broader diversity of factors, and considering drivers and responses of biological invasions explicitly (rather than implicitly by relevant covariates).

Published in “Sustainability Science”: Roura-Pascual et al. (2021) Alternative futures for global biological invasions. Sustainability Science. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-021-00963-6.

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