Emerging aliens threaten NZ’s environment

12 February 2018

That’s the message from Professor Philip Hulme of the Bio-Protection Research Centre, based at Lincoln University. 

Professor Hulme was part of a large international collaboration of scientists that analysed 46,000 recorded sightings of invasive animal and plant species around the world. Their research showed that one in every four new pest incursions were from species that had never before been recorded as being invasive. 

“We looked at patterns over the last five centuries to see whether there was any evidence of a slowdown in the number of new pests and weeds emerging around the world, but there wasn’t,” Prof Hulme said. “Just as many new pests are emerging now as in previous centuries.

“If we look at the pests and weeds already in New Zealand, most have come from Europe, Australia or North America, our traditional trade partners and sources of immigration. However, Asia is now becoming more important to both trade and immigration, and this is where many new pests and weeds appear to be coming from.” 

Prof Hulme says NZ may be entering a new era for biosecurity as it faces an increasing wave of unknown emerging pest species. “We need to make sure our biosecurity system is sufficiently flexible and well-resourced to deal with unexpected incursions by species we probably will know nothing about.”

“The responsibility rests with all of us: government, industry, the public, and every tourist who crosses our borders,” says Prof Hulme. “We all need to be vigilant, understand the risks and all act in a way that minimises the chances of any new pest or disease making its way to our shores.”

Source: Lincoln University