Invasive alien species, a global problem and a major threat to biodiversity

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Invasive alien species pose a serious global threat to nature, the economy, food security and human health. This is according to the recently published ‘Assessment Report on Invasive Alien Species and their Control’ of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

In fact, this report highlights that invasive alien species are one of the top five drivers of biodiversity loss and play a key role in 60% of global plant and animal extinctions.

Specifically, the 143 IPBES member states concluded that, in 2019, aside from drastic changes in biodiversity and ecosystems, the global economic cost of invasive alien species exceeded $423 billion annually and expenditures have quadrupled every decade since 1970.


IPBES experts estimate that there are currently 37,000 established alien species that have arrived with humans either deliberately or accidentally. Moreover, they are increasing at “an unprecedented rate” of approximately 200 each year. Of these, 3,500 are harmful and classified as invasive alien species, including 1,061 plants (6% of all alien plant species), 1,852 invertebrates (22%), 461 vertebrates (14%) and 141 microbes (11%).

Other key findings from this report focus on the fact that almost 80% of the documented impacts of invasive alien species are negative, especially in terms of damage to the food supply. Thus, 85% of these documented impacts negatively affect people’s quality of life, for example, through impacts on human health.

In addition, according to these experts, the measures taken to address these challenges are generally insufficient to date, with only 17% of countries having laws or regulations specifically addressing these issues, and 45% of countries not investing in the management of biological invasions.


Spain is an advanced country in the implementation of policies and measures to combat invasive alien species, particularly those that have been legally declared as invasive and have been included in the Spanish Catalog of Invasive Alien Species and/or in the List of Invasive Alien Species of Concern for the European Union.

However, in recent years, preventive mechanisms have also been promoted to avoid the first importation or introduction of allochthonous species that could become invasive without prior evaluation. Thus, Law 42/2007 of December 13, 2007, on Natural Heritage and Biodiversity establishes, in Article 54, special requirements regarding the import and introduction of allochthonous species into Spain, so that this can only be carried out if there are sufficient guarantees that it will not negatively affect the conservation of autochthonous biodiversity. These are therefore prevention requirements applicable to allochthonous or exotic species from third countries outside the EU.