The aliens have landed
Invasive alien species are affecting native wildlife in almost every corner of the Earth. “An unwanted by-product of globalization, non-native species are harming ecosystem services, livelihoods and economies throughout the world”, said Ban Ki-moon - United Nations Secretary-General.
Invasive alien species are plants, animals and other organisms that are not native to an ecosystem. Introduced species - such as rats and cats - are one of the greatest drivers of biodiversity loss, and have been implicated in almost half of all bird extinctions in the past five centuries.
To increase understanding and raise awareness of biodiversity issues, the United Nations declared today - 22 May - the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB). This year’s theme is drawing attention to the threats posed to biodiversity by invasive alien species.
In total, 625 Globally Threatened birds (51% of the total) are currently threatened by invasive alien species. The problem is especially acute on islands where long isolation has led to the evolution of species that often lack adequate defences against introduced species. “Three-quarters of all Globally Threatened bird species occurring on oceanic islands are at risk from introduced species”, said Don Stewart - Director for BirdLife International in the Pacific region.
“… non-native species are harming ecosystem services, livelihoods and economies throughout the world” —Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General
Seabirds that use the open seas are particularly threatened, and have deteriorated in status the fastest of all bird groups over the last two decades. This is closely linked to the expansion of commercial longline fisheries in seabird feeding areas, combined with the impacts of invasive alien species at nesting colonies.
One example is the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, where chicks are being eaten alive by the invasive House Mice Mus musculus. "Gough Island hosts an astonishing community of seabirds which is being decimated by carnivorous mice”, warned Ben Sullivan - BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme Coordinator.
“Alien species pose a major problem for breeding seabirds around the world” —Don Stewart, Director for BirdLife International in the Pacific region
In response to these threats, the BirdLife Partnership are involved in a range of projects which are successfully removing unwanted pests from islands around the world – particularly in the Pacific region. “Alien species are contributing to the demise of seabird colonies throughout the Pacific”, said
We were delighted to recently announce that that a partnership between BirdLife International and the Nagilogilo Clan of Vatuira has resulted in the successful eradication of Pacific Rats Rattus exulans from this internationally important seabird colony.
“We’re currently working alongside local communities to remove introduced species in Palau, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Fiji”, added Steve. “Working with local people is so important because it ensures that once the rats are removed they don’t come back”.
To read more about BirdLife’s work to eradicate alien species from islands in the Pacific, please click here. To read more about BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme, please click here. To view more BirdLife videos, please click here.
Credits: Global Seabird Programme / BirdLife Pacific Programme