The IAS Problem – Conservation, Prevention, and Protection

Did you know that when invasive alien species spread to an ecosystem, they can launch a hostile takeover if the native species aren’t big enough to fight back? Invasive species that aren’t indigenous to the places that they live in, irrevocably damage their new environment. Conservation is an act of prevention to protect native species from IAS intruders and to safely relocate native species to other habitats or sanctuaries while revitalizing their numbers.

There have been over 340 invasive reptiles and amphibians found in cargo alone. These species are stowaways or hitchhikers than can sometimes go undetected at ports of entry. A predominant IAS pathway is the exotic pet trade. Those who buy exotic pets are sometimes uneducated about the risks their pets might carry to other ecosystems.  

The Caribbean region is known for its biodiversity. Presently, with the expansion of global trade and through tourism, invasive alien species are becoming more rampant on the Caribbean islands. These IAS introductions usually prey on native species like reptiles, birds’ other invertebrates, before becoming extinct entirely or close to extinction. Invasive species like the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus Green) have caused irreparable damage to trade over the last twenty years to the region, costing an estimated US $18.3 million, incurring loss to trade as shipments of agricultural produce would not be accepted. More examples of IAS damage in the Caribbean can be found in our policy brief, ‘Invasives Species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean.’

Protecting native species and agriculture with conservation is an important step for all sectors because one can affect all. Invasive species can increase the costs of delivering power and water, discourage tourism and degrade recreational opportunities. Some invasive alien species carry exotic diseases like the Tropical Bont Tick. The Tropical Bont Tick (Amblyomma variegatum Fabricius), through a bite, can trigger skin lesions which can lead to acute dermatophilosis in animals. This is initiated by the bacteria Dermatophilus congolensis, which is the main vector for Cowdria ruminantium, a micro-organism that causes heartwater disease in domestic animals. Heartwater results in poor quality and often unusable hides, a loss of milk production, weight loss, and sometimes death in domestic animals.

Conservation is a form of prevention and protection against invasive alien species. It uses resources to relocate native species to safe sanctuaries in the event of IAS invasion. Once invasive alien species invade an ecosystem, native species may have a difficult time adapting or they may become prey to the non-native species. Protecting the native species through relocation helps to protect biodiversity.

A conservation method that can be used besides to protect native species, is the prevention of invasive alien species. Learning about what kind of invasive species is present in your area, report any sightings on our Facebook page. Another is knowing that as a human vector, IAS can attach themselves to what you wear. Regularly cleaning your gear, boat, tires, boots, and other equipment to remove plant parts and insects may prevent the spread of invasive species to new places. Regularly cleaning is highly encouraged especially if you unknowingly enter an area that has invasive species.

While conservation of native species from invasive alien species is crucial to the balance of ecosystems. It should be noted that prevention is most important, i.e., biosecurity measures. Biosecurity measures at all existing ports of entry would be an enormous deterrent to high-risk items that may contain IAS species. Read more about biosecurity in our policy brief, ‘Improving Biosecurity Will Safeguard Our Health, Economy, and Irreplaceable Biodiversity.’

Read more from our sources below!


VOA News – Invasive Reptiles, Amphibians Cost World $17 Billion

USA Today – Invasive species already cost billions. As the climate warms, the damage is expected to get worse.

The National Wildlife Foundation – Invasive Species

Policy Brief – Invasives Species Threaten Livelihoods and Valuable Biodiversity in the Caribbean

Policy Brief – Improving Biosecurity Will Safeguard Our Health, Economy, and Irreplaceable Biodiversity