Economic impact disharmony in global biological invasions

Ross N. Cuthbert*, Jaimie T.A. Dick, Phillip J. Haubrock, Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, Ismael Soto, Elizabeta Briski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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A dominant syndrome of the Anthropocene is the rapid worldwide spread of invasive species with devastating environmental and socio-economic impacts. However, the dynamics underlying the impacts of biological invasions remain contested. A hypothesis posits that the richness of impactful invasive species increases proportionally with the richness of non-native species more generally. A competing hypothesis suggests that certain species features disproportionately enhance the chances of non-native species becoming impactful, causing invasive species to arise disproportionately relative to the numbers of non-native species. We test whether invasive species with reported monetary costs reflect global numbers of established non-native species among phyla, classes, and families. Our results reveal that numbers of invasive species with economic costs largely reflect non-native species richness among taxa (i.e., in 96 % of families). However, a few costly taxa were over- and under-represented, and their composition differed among environments and regions. Chordates, nematodes, and pathogenic groups tended to be the most over-represented phyla with reported monetary costs, with mammals, insects, fungi, roundworms, and medically-important microorganisms being over-represented classes. Numbers of costly invasive species increased significantly with non-native richness per taxon, while monetary cost magnitudes at the family level were also significantly related to costly invasive species richness. Costs were biased towards a few ‘hyper-costly’ taxa (such as termites, mosquitoes, cats, weevils, rodents, ants, and asters). Ordination analysis revealed significant dissimilarity between non-native and costly invasive taxon assemblages. These results highlight taxonomic groups which harbour disproportionately high numbers of costly invasive species and monetary cost magnitudes. Collectively, our findings support prevention of arrival and containment of spread of non-native species as a whole through effective strategies for mitigation of the rapidly amplifying impacts of invasive species. Yet, the hyper- costly taxa identified here should receive greater focus from managers to reduce impacts of current invasive species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169622
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date03 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2024


  • Biodiversity
  • Biological invasion
  • Environmental change
  • InvaCost
  • Null model
  • Socio-economic impact


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