Invasive species cost the world roughly half a trillion dollars a year. Here are the 10 most widespread


A worker in China clears invasive plants, including water hyacinth, from a river.
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

Around 37,000 invasive species have been identified worldwide. They cost governments at least $423 billion per year in damages and control, according to a new landmark report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a division of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The estimate, dating back to 2019, is conservative and the real price tag is likely higher, considering that around 200 new invasive species are recorded each year.

The report finds that only 55% of all countries invest in the management of biological invasions. While 80% of countries have targets related to managing invasive alien species in their national biodiversity plans, only 17% have national laws or regulations specifically addressing these issues.

“The severe global threat posed by invasive alien species is underappreciated, underestimated, and often unacknowledged,” IPBES stated in a press release. The report was produced over the last five years by 86 experts from 49 countries drawing on more than 13,000 references, making it the most comprehensive assessment ever carried out of invasive alien species around the world.

An invasive species is new to a given ecosystem or region, but finds a way to proliferate or extend its range, often by overtaking native species, with harmful effects. Invasive plants, animals, and microbes are primarily spread around the world through global trade and human travel, whether intentionally or accidentally.

Scientists believe that invasive species, now finding new pathways to spread due to climate change, have contributed substantially to global extinctions. Of the invasive species assessed, 22% are invertebrates, 14% vertebrates, 11% microbes, and 6% plants. The extent of negative impact varies by type of environment and region, but these 10 species are the most prevalent around the world.


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