Economic costs of biological invasions in the United Kingdom

Ross N. Cuthbert, Angela C. Bartlett, Anna J. Turbelin, Phillip J. Haubrock, Christophe Diagne, Zarah Pattison, Franck Courchamp, Jane A. Catford

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Although the high costs of invasion are frequently cited and are a key motivation for environmental management and policy, synthesised data on invasion costs are scarce. Here, we quantify and examine the monetary costs of biological invasions in the United Kingdom (UK) using a global synthesis of reported invasion costs. Invasive alien species have cost the UK economy between US$6.9 billion and $17.6 billion (pounds5.4 – pounds13.7 billion) in reported losses and expenses since 1976. Most costs were reported for the entire UK or Great Britain (97%); country-scale cost reporting for the UK's four constituent countries was scarce. Reports of animal invasions were the costliest ($4.7 billion), then plant ($1.3 billion) and fungal ($206.7 million) invasions. Reported damage costs (i.e. excluding management costs) were higher in terrestrial ($4.8 billion) than aquatic or semi-aquatic environments ($29.8 million), and primarily impacted agriculture ($4.2 billion). Invaders with earlier introduction years accrued significantly higher total invasion costs. Invasion costs have been increasing rapidly since 1976, and have cost the UK economy $157.1 million (pounds122.1 million) per annum, on average. Published information on specific economic costs included only 42 of 520 invaders reported in the UK and was generally available only for the most intensively studied taxa, with just four species contributing 90% of species-specific costs. Given that many of the invasive species lacking cost data are actively managed and have well-recognised impacts, this suggests that cost information is incomplete and that totals presented here are vast underestimates owing to knowledge gaps. Financial expenditure on managing invasions is a fraction (37%) of the costs incurred through damage from invaders; greater investments in UK invasive species research and management are, therefore, urgently required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-328
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2021


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