Invasive alien species a greater threat to World Heritage Sites than previously thought


Invasive alien species a greater threat to World Heritage Sites than previously thought

5 October 2020
A team of international scientists has devised a new monitoring and reporting framework to help protect World Heritage Sites from invasive alien species.

The framework and the results of its application to seven case study sites around the world are presented in a recent Biodiversity and Conservation article, which revealed more invasive alien species than previously reported in almost all cases.

The authors call for immediate and urgent action to reduce the severity of these threats, and suggest the new tool could ultimately help protect World Heritage Sites like the Galápagos, Serengeti and Aldabra Atoll and other protected areas from future invasions.

World Heritage Sites are designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the World Heritage Convention as having outstanding universal value and conservation importance, and are recognised as the planet’s most significant protected areas.

However, biological invasions from a range of terrestrial, freshwater and marine-based invasive alien species can disrupt native biodiversity, ecosystem function and the delivery of ecosystem services, and incur extremely high financial management costs.

Assessing biological invasions and their management in 241 natural and mixed natural-cultural World Heritage Sites from documents collated by UNESCO and IUCN, the team identified 290 different invasive alien species that are considered to threaten these precious sites. Some of the worst and most common problem species include rats (Rattus spp.), cats (Felis catus), goats (Capra hircus), common lantana (Lantana camara) and Argentine ants (Linepithema humile).