The introduction of invasive species to an ecosystem is one of the main direct drivers of biodiversity loss globally. A loss that Latin America leads: according to WWF’s Living Planet Report, it is the region with the highest loss in mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016.
Alien species introduced artificially, accidentally or intentionally and that, after a time, manage to adapt to the environment and colonize it are considered invasive (WWF). The problem is so serious that one of the 20 Aichi targets for biodiversity – goals that were agreed in 2010 to be met before the end of 2020 – is the identification, classification, control or eradication and prevention of the introduction of invasive species.
Regarding this objective, much progress has been made in the last 10 years in the identification of invasive species and their classification according to the risk they pose, however no decisive steps have been taken to achieve their eradication, a situation that has only been got on some islands. Nor has the introduction of invasive species been slowed down. In fact, of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, only some have been completed and only partially.
From the streets of European capitals, like in Rome, where our correspondent Natalia Mendoza spoke with scientists about the invasion of monk parakeets from Latin America, to Chilean Patagonia, where beavers are killing the native forest, the challenge of the species Invaders continues.
The introduction of species can be natural or human, accidental or voluntary. This is what happened in Chile in 1946, when the Argentine military brought 10 pairs of beavers from North America to Tierra del Fuego, wanting to commercialize the animal’s skin. The business was unsuccessful and the animals were left free and they were reproduced and expanded throughout the region until reaching a current estimated population of more than 100,000 specimens.
Experts assure that the Patagonian forest has no way of defending itself against the beaver that, with its dams, floods entire areas and kills native trees, which are not prepared for excess water. According to Miguel Gallardo, tour operator, “the beaver is indirectly causing the death of native birds and, at the same time, directly of the forests and native species of flora.”
Chilean authorities estimate that since their introduction, beavers have devastated more than 23,000 hectares of native forests, with economic losses estimated at 62.7 million dollars due to the destruction of wood. For this reason, in Chile they try to eradicate the beaver population with traps or hunting them with a rifle. A hunt that, in the words of Charif Tala, from the conservation department of the Chilean Ministry of the Environment, “has nothing to do with a fight against beavers, but rather has to do with this need we have to protect the natural heritage. of our country. “
In other parts of the world, they have found a way to fight invasive species that serves two functions: controlling these populations of foreign animals and awakening the gastronomic creativity of chefs and diners. In the southern United States, you can order a dish with kudzu pesto, a climbing plant from Japan, or fried lionfish, a species native to the Indian Ocean that causes serious damage to coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and the Latin American Caribbean.
There are many ways to contribute to the solution, but the most important thing is to avoid being a carrier of invasive species: we plant native species in our gardens or houses, we do not move animals, fruits or plants from one place to another and, if we go camping, we use always local woods to create bonfires.