SOURCE: McGill University

DATE: March 18, 2019

SNIP: Rising global maritime traffic could lead to sharp increases in invasive species around the world over the next 30 years, according to a new study by McGill University researchers.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, suggest that shipping growth will far outweigh climate change in the spread of non-indigenous pests to new environments in coming decades.

Biological invasions are believed to be a major driver of biodiversity change, and cause billions of dollars in economic damages annually,” says senior author Brian Leung, an associate professor in McGill’s Department of Biology and School of Environment. “Our models show that the emerging global shipping network could yield a three-fold to 20-fold increase in global marine invasion risk between now and 2050.”

Shipping accounts for 80% of world trade, and an estimated 60% to 90% of marine bio-invasions. In some cases, ships transport living organisms through ballast water, which is taken up to stabilize the vessel. In others, species hitch a ride to new environments by attaching to the hulls of ships.