Biological invasions in Singapore and Southeast Asia: data gaps fail to mask potentially massive economic costs

Phillip J. Haubrock, Ross N. Cuthbert, Darren C. J. Yeo, Achyut Kumar Banerjee, Chunlong Liu, Christophe Diagne, Franck Courchamp

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Abstract

The impacts of invasive alien species are well-known and are categorised as a leading contributor to biodiversity loss globally. However, relatively little is known about the monetary costs incurred from invasions on national economies, hampering management responses. In this study, we used published data to describe the economic cost of invasions in Southeast Asia, with a focus on Singapore – a biodiversity-rich, tropical island city state with small size, high human density and high trade volume, three factors likely to increase invasions. In this country, as well as in others in Southeast Asia, cost data were scarce, with recorded costs available for only a small fraction of the species known to be invasive. Yet, the overall available economic costs to Singapore were estimated to be $ US$ 1.72 billion in total since 1975 (after accounting for inflation), which is approximately one tenth of the total cost recorded in all of Southeast Asia (US$ 16.9 billion). These costs, in Singapore and Southeast Asia, were mostly linked to insects in the family Culicidae (principally Aedes spp.) and associated with damage, resource loss, healthcare and control-related spending. Projections for 11 additional species known to be invasive in Singapore, but with recorded costs only from abroad, amounted to an additional US$ 893.13 million, showing the potential huge gap between recorded and actual costs (cost records remain missing for over 90% of invasive species). No costs within the database for Singapore – or for other Southeast Asian countries – were exclusively associated with proactive management, highlighting that a shortage of reporting on the costs of invasions is mirrored by a lack of investment in management. Moreover, invasion cost entries in Singapore were under-reported relative to import levels, but total costs exceeded expectations, based on land area and population size, and to a greater extent than in other Southeast Asian countries. Therefore, the evaluation and reporting of economic costs of invasions need to be improved in this region to provide efficient data-based support for mitigation and management of their impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-152
Number of pages22
JournalNeoBiota
Volume67
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021

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