Image: Everglades NPS, Wikimedia Commons

Invasive species are growing in numbers and decimating ecosystems around the globe, according to a recent study.

More than one-third of these invasive species have been introduced in the past forty years alone — and this rate is expected to continue despite efforts to address the issue worldwide. 

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications and highlighted data accumulated from the IUCN Global Invasive Species Database and the Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species. Researchers have confirmed the presence of more than 17,000 established alien species.

“The results of this study are alarming because we see a constant increase in the number of new invasions in all taxonomic groups and in all regions of the world,“ stated author Piero Genovesi, Chair of the IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group.

The most alarming fact is that humans are the primary culprits. The encompassing actions of humans around the globe are introducing invasive species into ecosystems where they otherwise would never have been found.

One example is the spread of Burmese pythons in Florida. They are commonly kept as pets but those that escape or are released into the wild become integrated into the surrounding ecosystem. Burmese pythons now have an established breeding population in South Florida.

Animals and plants introduced into areas outside of their natural range can have devastating effects on biodiversity in the ecosystem. Invasive species put stress on food and water sources available in those areas and are often the cause of extinction of native animals, including amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.

The IUCN recently launched the Honolulu Challenge on Invasive Alien Species — the first of many efforts to put a stop to the alien species trying to take over the world.