21 June 2016 (CSIRO) – The research, which is published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that although the chances of invasive species entering Australia were relatively high, the overall threat to agriculture is lessened due to our robust management practices.
The research examines the worldwide distribution of nearly 1300 invasive pests and pathogens, international trade flows, and each country's main agricultural production crops, to determine potential invasion risks and impact.
This is the first analysis of invasive species' threat to global crop production on a country-by-country basis, calculating the total potential cost of these species invading each of the 124 countries.
Senior researcher Dr Dean Paini said the research found that the most vulnerable countries were located in sub-Saharan Africa.
"These countries generally do not have diverse economies making them disproportionately more dependent on agriculture," Dr Paini said.
"As a result any threat from invasive species can potentially have a greater relative impact on these countries."
The study also determined which countries present the greatest threat to the rest of the world given the scale of agricultural export and the invasive species already established.
The USA and China posed the greatest threat as a source of invasive species, however this is not surprising given the high number of pests already present, the scale of their agriculture export industries and their role as regional food hubs with an extensive network of trade partners.
Conversely, as the countries with the largest agricultural export industries, the USA and China could also experience the greatest absolute cost from further species invasions.
However, their ability to manage or mitigate the impact via means such as pest management, plant breeding, crop substitutions, or imports, means that their agriculture industries are not as vulnerable as those of developing countries.
As trade volumes continue to increase and more trade connections are made between countries, the pressures from invasive species will only intensify.
"This research provides insights that will enable the first steps towards the management of invasive species at the global scale," Dr Paini said.
"By identifying the countries and regions that are most vulnerable, governments can make informed decisions regarding the deployment of resources necessary to protect their borders and agriculture industries by limiting the further spread of invasive species."
This research was supported by funding from the Plant Biosecurity CRC.
Ms Cassandra Leigh
Phone: +61 3 6232 5070, +61 414 868 409 (Mobile)
ABSTRACT: Invasive species present significant threats to global agriculture, although how the magnitude and distribution of the threats vary between countries and regions remains unclear. Here, we present an analysis of almost 1,300 known invasive insect pests and pathogens, calculating the total potential cost of these species invading each of 124 countries of the world, as well as determining which countries present the greatest threat to the rest of the world given their trading partners and incumbent pool of invasive species. We find that countries vary in terms of potential threat from invasive species and also their role as potential sources, with apparently similar countries sometimes varying markedly depending on specifics of agricultural commodities and trade patterns. Overall, the biggest agricultural producers (China and the United States) could experience the greatest absolute cost from further species invasions. However, developing countries, in particular, Sub-Saharan African countries, appear most vulnerable in relative terms. Furthermore, China and the United States represent the greatest potential sources of invasive species for the rest of the world. The analysis reveals considerable scope for ongoing redistribution of known invasive pests and highlights the need for international cooperation to slow their spread.