CABI’s expertise in invasive species has been showcased at the fourth International Congress on Biological Invasions (ICBI2023) held in Christchurch, New Zealand.

It is the first time the event has been held outside of China and attracted over 400 participants from different backgrounds and from about 27 different countries including CABI’s Dr Hariet Hinz, Dr Jinping Zhang, Dr Sivapragasam Annamalai and Sally Stone. A pre-recorded presentation from Dr Joseph Mulema was also shown at the congress.

ICBI2023 was held to highlight the importance of innovation, collaboration and partnership with a particular emphasis on supporting indigenous and Pacific communities deal with the threats posed by Invasive Alien Species (IAS).

Aotearoa New Zealand is especially vulnerable to IAS. Its economy relies heavily on primary production and its geographic isolation has given rise to unique flora and fauna and a high degree of endemism.

Dr David Teulon, Chair, Local Organising Committee, said in his address – published in the congress programme – that he was happy to finally being able to welcome delegates to New Zealand, after the congress had to be postponed several times due to the Covid pandemic.

He continued to say that defending New Zealand from IAS is a top priority and the country has world-leading research programmes in border biosecurity science, integrated pest management, offshore and onshore island predator eradication and meaningful partnerships with Maori.

He said, “As international trade, tourism and transportation networks continue to expand, ICBI2023 provides a science forum to explore, share and develop effective responses to the global challenges and threats that IAS present to biodiversity, ecological systems, food production and food security in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems.”

The congress lined up an impressive range of keynote speakers, covering a wide range of topics. Dr Philip Hulme, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centre for One-Biosecurity Research in New Zealand, highlighted the similarities between epidemics and biological invasions calling for a ‘One Biodiversity.’

Professor Ruth Wallace, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Arts & Society at Charles Darwin University, Australia, talked about co-designing policies and the importance to identify the right people to talk to in a community (the ‘Mervs’) to gain support.

Professor Helen Roy, Ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, presented her work on predicting future risks of biological invasions in Europe and the UK overseas Territories.

Finally, Dr Kevin Lafferty, Senior scientist with the US Geological Survey, USA, gave a fascinating talk about the role of parasites in the invasion process.

As part of the four-day congress, of which CABI was also a sponsor, Dr Mulema, Senior Scientist, Research, delivered a pre-recorded presentation about employing CABI’s Horizon Scanning Tool to prioritize invasive alien pests with the potential to threaten agriculture, biodiversity, and forestry in Africa.

This exercise was conducted in collaboration with many local partners in Ghana and Kenya and Dr Mulema presented the principal steps and outcomes.

Dr Hinz, Global Director, Invasives, spoke about Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) for sustainable control of invasive non-native plants. Dr Sivapragasam presented the development of a biosecurity plan for the Papua New Guinea coconut industry and, finally, Dr Zhang spoke on biological control research of the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) in kiwifruit in China.


The brown marmorated stink bug is not only a threat to kiwifruit in China but also to New Zealand’s wine industry as exemplified by this biosecurity trail sign (Credit: CABI).

Dr Mulema highlighted how horizon scanning can help to guide resource allocation to interventions that are most likely to reduce risks by IAS, and is, therefore, very useful to National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs) and other relevant stakeholders in developing early preparedness strategies so that likely invasions are detected early, contained and eventually eradicated if possible.

In a session on Building social partnerships, Dr Hinz explained that some invasive tree species had been introduced on purpose in East Africa and other regions for firewood, charcoal production, as fodder and for their drought resistance.

However, some, like prosopis, have got out of hand and are now threatening the livelihoods of pastoralists and other local stakeholders. The control of these species may, therefore, lead to potential conflicts of interest between different stakeholders.

She presented a summary of the Woody Weeds and Woody Weeds+ projects (led by Urs Schaffner and René Eschen) that are using an ILM approach including all relevant stakeholder groups. The aim is to reduce trade-offs and increase synergies by co-developing spatially explicit land use plans including prosopis management.

Dr Sivapragasam in his presentation spoke about how CABI and Kokonas Indastri Koporesen (KIK), in collaboration with a number of private and public stakeholders, developed a Biosecurity Plan (BP) for the coconut industry in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

He highlighted how the BP was timely considering challenges posed by recent threats to the PNG coconut industry by the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle and the Bogia Coconut Syndrome.

Finally, Dr Zhang summarised work in China to develop a proof-of-concept for the biological control of brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) using the natural enemy Trissolcus japonicus (Ashmead) (Hymenoptera: Scelionidae). The aim is to optimize its use in kiwi fruit production in China and in view of a potential introduction of the BMSB in New Zealand.

Dr Hinz said, “I was impressed by the strong integration of Māori culture, values and language in the congress with several sessions dedicated to the Māori perspective on IAS and their pivotal role in the conservation and protection of natural habitat and wildlife.”


Additional information

Main image: The delegation from CABI who attended ICBI2023 in person (Credit: CABI).

International Congress on Biological Invasions (ICBI2023)

For more information on the fourth International Congress on Biological Invasions (ICBI2023), including the full programme and activities visit