Biological weed control to relieve millions from Ambrosia allergies in Europe.
Invasive alien species (IAS) can substantially affect ecosystem services and human well-being. However, quantitative assessments of their impact on human health are rare and the benefits of implementing IAS management likely to be underestimated. Here we report the effects of the allergenic plant Ambrosia artemisiifolia on public health in Europe and the potential impact of the accidentally introduced leaf beetle Ophraella communa on the number of patients and healthcare costs. We find that, prior to the establishment of O. communa, some 13.5 million persons suffered from Ambrosia-induced allergies in Europe, causing costs of Euro 7.4 billion annually. Our projections reveal that biological control of A. artemisiifolia will reduce the number of patients by approximately 2.3 million and the health costs by Euro 1.1 billion per year. Our conservative calculations indicate that the currently discussed economic costs of IAS underestimate the real costs and thus also the benefits from biological control.