By Paula Leighton for SciDev.

[SANTIAGO] A global commitment endorsed by 33 non-governmental and state organizations has called for action to prioritize the control and eradication of invasive alien species (IAS), a key factor in the degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity worldwide.

The so-called Honolulu Challenge, signed on November 29 at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Congress in Hawaii, seeks to promote actions and collaborations among countries and organizations in 11 priority areas.

“There is urgent need to develop effective biosecurity measures to prevent the IAS problem from becoming even more serious.”

Fernando Baeriswyl, Global Environment Facility

These activities include developing effective biosecurity measures, increasing the number and scale of efforts to eradicate invasive species, integrating such efforts into protected area management plans, increasing international and national funding, institutionalizing invasive species programmes within government ministries, engaging civil society and relevant sectors in order to raise awareness, and investing in collecting and sharing information.

In a statement, the IUCN warns that the invasive species problem is increasing “due to the increasing movement of goods and people around the world and the synergistic effects of climate change”.

In the future, IUCN added, the greatest risk of biological invasions will be for “emerging economies, where some of the poorest communities and the richest biodiversity areas are”.

Fernando Baeriswyl, national coordinator of the Global Environment Facility’s Invasive Alien Species Project in Chile, agrees. “The most important thing in our [Latin America] region, considering economies and generally regional priorities, is to start with prevention,” he points out. “In that regard, there is urgent need to develop effective biosecurity measures to prevent the IAS problem from becoming even more serious.”

It is critical to involve island states, where invasive species are the leading cause of extinction of endemic species.

Alfonso Aguirre, general director of the Islands Conservation and Ecology Group (GECI, in Spanish), which has recorded  58 eradications in 37 Mexican islands, told SciDev.Net that extinction affects “mainly birds and mammals, as well as seabirds and plant communities, which have a great impact on the resilience of insular ecosystems against climate change”.

GECI’s commitment to the Honolulu Challenge is to eradicate the invasive mammals of all Mexican islands by 2030 — mainly goats, rabbits, black rats and domestic mice.

Aguirre believes that “this initiative reinforces collaboration, growth of vision and, above all, the work in the field. Although it is not binding, it does help a lot because of its moral weight, especially for civil society”.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Latin America and the Caribbean desk.

This article is part of a series on invasive species supported by CABI. This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article. Photo: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources CC BY-NC 2.0