Need for action in Pest Control

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New CSIRO report flags need for action on invasive pests and weeds

Need for action in Pest Control
The European Rabbit is Australia's most common invasive vertebrate

 

A recently-released report from CSIRO and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS), called Fighting plagues and predators: Australia’s path to a pest and weed-free future, says action is needed now to prevent further extinctions of native Australian species.

CSIRO says a conservative estimate of the cost of damage caused by invasive species in Australia – predominantly weeds, feral cats, rabbits and fire ants – is $390 billion over the past six decades and around $25 billion each year and growing.

Over eight in 10 nationally-listed threatened species are endangered by invasive species and more than 70 per cent of Australia’s native animals are found nowhere else. Invasive species also undermine agriculture, leading to increased food and fibre prices.

It is estimated that weeds cost agriculture at least $5 billion a year, with grain growers spending $2.5 billion a year on weed control.

The report says that emerging biosecurity technologies need to be fast tracked and new techniques developed to prevent, eradicate and control invasive pests.

Among the mooted technological solutions are: the use of low-orbit satellites to provide widespread broadband access to allow for monitoring of pests; encouraging the use of tracking apps such as FeralScan that allow anybody with a smartphone to record pest activity; and using nano-biosensors to detect hazardous microbes on crops, plant diseases and wood rot caused by pathogenic fungi.

Report co-author and CSIRO scientist Dr Andy Sheppard says that while many Australians are aware of the havoc caused by the recent mouse plagues in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, they have no idea of the magnitude of the invasive species issue for Australia.

"Urgent, decisive, coordinated action is crucial to stopping the spread of invasive species and to protect our extraordinary, irreplaceable native animals and plants, and Australia has a great track record in this space," says Sheppard.

"It is the only way to stop the spread of invasive species, protect native plants and animals and preserve many of our favourite Australian outdoor pastimes."

He says that many more smart decisions and interventions were needed to ensure resources were invested where they were most effective.

"Prevention will be much cheaper and more effective than trying to control the spread of pests and weeds once they are established.

"We need to safely harness emerging technologies, revitalise our biosecurity research and innovation system and continue to invest in long-term, strategic research and development."

 

Myrtle Rust is an invasive fungal disease first detected in Australia in 2010

 

Globally, invasive species are ranked as the fifth greatest issue facing the environment, but in Australia it’s the number one issue. Australia has the highest rate of vertebrate mammal extinctions in the world.

"Invasive species have contributed to the extinction of 79 Australian native species," explained co-author and CISS chief executive Andreas Glanznig

The single biggest vertebrate menace to native species is European rabbits, found in two-thirds of Australia, followed by feral cats, pigs, foxes and cane toads, and the report recommends Australiaincrease its focus on breakthrough solutions to major ferals – rodents, feral cats and pigs – within the next 30 years.

As well as the destruction caused by introduced animals, invasive plants cause significant damage in farmlands, forests and savannas. Australia now has more than 2,700 established weed species – growing by 20 new species every year – or one new weed every 18 days.

Climate change, international trade and travel movements, and extreme weather events such as floods, fires and drought, is driving the spread of invasive species.

"The challenge is for all Australians to work together to stop the problem from getting worse," says Glanznig.

"Together we can work to drive down Australia’s native species extinction rate – currently over four species a decade – towards net zero extinctions.

"From suburban backyards to science labs, everyone can play a role in pest and weed prevention and control.

"Education and public awareness programs are needed so we can enlist millions of Australians to help find and eradicate invasive species before they get a foothold.

"The technology exists to establish a national, coordinated community surveillance network, making it possible for everyone to get involved, to help find new invaders early before they can become a problem."

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