Next to habitat loss, invasive alien species are recognized as the second greatest threat to biodiversity. Invasive species are responsible for inflicting irreversible damage to ecosystems as well as incurring costs measured in billions of pounds.
Over the past 100 years increasing world trade and the relaxation of European trade barriers has led to more and more alien species arriving on European shores. CABI researchers are world leaders in invasive species management and for over 90 years have been working to find long-term, environmentally sustainable solutions to invasive pests with recent examples like Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam, and the harlequin ladybird.
The UK government recently approved the release of a tiny sap-sucking psyllid as a biological control agent to combat Japanese knotweed in the UK. Rigourous testing by CABI scientists has shown that the insect is the most promising safe way to tackle this £1.56 billion problem. This is the first time a biological control agent has been used to control an invasive plant not only in the UK but in the European Union. Read more about the Japanese knotweed project in the UK >>
Japanese knotweed is one of the most serious invasive weeds in Europe. Indeed it is so invasive that in the UK it is illegal to cause it grow in the wild under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It is also an expensive problem from builders, adding around 10% to development site costs. Developers are required by law to treat it as contaminated waste and to dispose of it with reference to a National Code of Practice.
In Switzerland, France, and Germany CABI is also conducting research and has quantified the significant negative ecological and economic impacts of the weed. Read more about this project >>
As with many introduced plants, Himalayan balsam did not arrive in Europe with its suite of natural enemies. Introduced into the UK from the Himalayas in the 19th century as an ornamental plant, Himalayan balsam has spread rapidly across the UK and Europe, choking out native plants.
CABI researchers are currently searching for specific natural enemies that may be suitable to control the plant in the UK and potentially the rest of Europe. Find out more about our Himalayan Balsam project >>
Originally sold or introduced in the 1990s into 12 European countries to combat aphids in greenhouses and orchards, the harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, has since spread rapidly to over 15 countries. The harlequin ladybird is a voracious predator with a longer breeding period than many of Europe's native ladybird species and there are fears that it may displace many of these by direct predation or competition for food.
CABI is part of a network of European scientists working together to assess the impact of the ladybird at a European level and to develop suitable management options. Go to project information on the Harlequin ladybird >>
The harlequin ladybird is an example of the need to for appropriate regulation of the introduction of biological control agents, to obtain the benefits of this approach without taking unnecessary risks. CABI's supports international initiatives to ensure that biological control is carried out safely, most recently as a partner in the EU Policy Support Action REBECA, “Regulation of biological control agents” to develop more balanced procedures for risk assessment and regulation of all types of biological control agents in Europe.