According to a recent analysis, Australia may suffer a wave of plant and animal extinctions by 2050 unless it takes immediate action to address the menace of invasive species, which is already costing the country at least $25 billion each year.
CSIRO Conducting a Study
The study, conducted by Australia's national science agency, the CSIRO, and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, looks at the threat posed by rabbits, feral cats, poisonous toads, weeds, diseases like myrtle rust, and other invasive pests once every decade.
Invasive species, it claims, are the top one threat to Australia's wildlife, affecting more than 80% of nationally listed vulnerable plants, animals, and ecosystems.
In Need of New Methods
The scientists recommend the rapid development of new methods for detecting, eradicating, and preventing invasive pests.
They warn that the situation is becoming worse and that a "new wave of animal extinctions is looming over northern Australia, as extensive fires and overgrazing by feral cattle, pigs, and buffaloes eliminate habitat and make it easier for feral cats to hunt."
"It's critical to get a handle on invasive alien species today," said Andy Sheppard, a biosecurity research director at the CSIRO.
Other variables, such as land use change and the climate crisis, Sheppard said, exacerbated the threat presented by invasive species, with more natural catastrophes providing an opportunity for feral animals and weeds to spread.
"We need to address climate change," he added, "but if we only focus on that and ignore the other drivers of biodiversity loss, things will only get worse."
Various Invasive Species
According to the survey, rabbits, which infest two-thirds of Australia, are the most dangerous animals, followed by feral cats, pigs, foxes, and cane toads.
Rabbits, according to Sheppard, have a significant influence on many of Australia's indigenous species, and their grazing prevents plant regeneration in locations where wildlife is already threatened by other reasons such as agricultural habitat degradation.
Despite the existence of efficient biological control tools to limit their impact on agriculture, he said Australia had so far been unable to lower rabbit populations to levels low enough to cease the environmental harm they were creating.
The survey also discovered that invasive species were wreaking havoc in farmlands, woodlands, and savannas.
More than 2,700 weed species have been identified in Australia, with 20 new species added per year or one new weed every 18 days.
The researchers were also concerned about myrtle rust, an invasive plant disease that has already threatened the extinction of at least three native species.
"It might yet sneak into portions of Australia and have disastrous effects on local plants," Sheppard added.
According to the researchers, governments must accelerate the development of genetic technologies that can manage, prevent, and remove pests like feral cats.
Andreas Glanznig, the chief executive of the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, said that public awareness campaigns were also required to aid in detecting and eradicating invasive species.
He stated, "The task is for all Australians to work together to prevent the situation from growing worse."
"By working together, we can reduce Australia's native species extinction rate, which is now over four species per decade, to net zero."
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