Passport, please: A global strategy to curb invasive species

Plants have no respect for boundaries. Nor, for that matter, do zebra mussels, crazy ants or Nile perch. When alien species invade, they wreak havoc on economies and ecosystems across the globe. Curbing the problem is an international task, says Harold A. Mooney, a Stanford biologist who helped design a global plan to deal with the invaders.

``If we have a fire, then we send for the fire truck. People respond right away. But we have no strategy for invasive species,`` says Mooney, the Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology. He will outline a 10-point strategy to curb invasive species at the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference on Friday, Feb. 16, at 9 a.m. PT.

Mooney is speaking on behalf of the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP), an international collaboration of scientists, lawyers and policy makers that has been working for three years to come up with an effective and globally acceptable plan.

Behind habitat destruction, alien invasion is the second greatest cause of species extinction worldwide. On islands, alien invasion is the number one cause of extinction, says Laurie Neville, project officer for GISP.

When the small brown tree snake arrived on the coast of Guam, it entered an island with 13 species of forest birds, 12 types of lizards and three bat species. Today, only one bat species remains, three forest birds and six native lizard species.

Biodiversity loss, though devastating, is not the only issue. More than one million nocturnal brown snakes now inhabit even the smallest spaces on Guam. They cause black-outs by crawling on power lines, hunt in family chicken coops and slide into homes through bathroom vents.

Guam may sound extreme, but many examples rival the plague-like status of the brown tree snake. The invasive, hardy water hyacinth strangled the ecosystem and economics of Lake Victoria in Africa until a multimillion dollar international control program was put in

Contact: Mark Shwartz
Stanford University

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