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Only 0.1% of scientific publications dealing with invasive alien species

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These discoveries are part of a study undertaken for the UNESCO scientific report (2021), in which UNESCO commissioned Science Metrix to collect data on global publication trends on 56 major research topics of particular relevance to the Sustainable Development Goals, including the fight against alien species invasive.

The study reveals that there was a 68% increase in global publications on the topic of combating invasive alien species between 2011 and 2019, from 2,536 to 4,063 publications (see figure). However, this progress comes from a modest baseline.

The modest scientific output on this topic results in a blind spot when it comes to tracking progress towards Aichi Biodiversity Target 9, which aims to “eliminate, minimize, reduce and/or mitigate the impacts invasive alien species on biodiversity and ecosystem services. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, only 23 countries out of 196 (12%) are on track to achieve this goal and more than half of countries (114) do not report their progress.

This is despite the fact that invasive alien species constitute a growing dilemma, according to a report published on September 4 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), of which UNESCO is an institutional partner. IPBES Assessment report on invasive alien species and their control finds that the annual cost of invasive alien species has quadrupled every decade since 1970, reaching US$423 billion today.

Invasive alien species can outcompete native species. The IPBES report estimates that invasive species played a key role in 60% of plant and animal species extinctions worldwide.

Invasive alien species can be devastating. They can cause disease, compromise food and water security and harm livelihoods. Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika are transmitted by the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), for example, which has managed to extend its range to the north of France, thanks to milder winters due to climate change. West Nile virus is leading cause of mosquito-borne diseases in the United States of America.

Areas with high rates of endemic species, such as Yemen’s Socotra Archipelago, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, are particularly vulnerable to invasive alien species. First observed in the archipelago in 2019the invasive red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus), poses a real threat to local livelihoods, as date palms have traditionally been Socotrans’ main source of food after milk and meat and their main agricultural production. Weevil populations can be controlled by the removal of infested palm trees, widespread trapping of adult weevils, targeted use of insecticides, and the introduction of natural enemies of the weevil, including different species of fungi. However, Yemeni scientists published only three articles in international indexed journals between 2011 and 2019 on the topic of combating invasive alien species.

The IPBES report estimates that more than 37,000 alien species are established worldwide. Of these, more than 2,300 are on lands under the management of indigenous peoples, threatening their quality of life and even their cultural identity.

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