EPPO Global Database

EPPO Reporting Service no. 11 - 2010 Num. article: 2010/227

Invasive species, climate change and ecosystem-based adaptation

The report “Invasive Species, climate change and ecosystem-based adaptation: addressing multiple drivers of global change” is directed at policy-makers and intends to provide guidance on the best way to integrate invasive species prevention and management into the consideration of climate change responses across a range of sectors. In the report, climate change and invasive species interactions, ecosystem-based adaptation and the maintenance of ecosystem services are discussed. Case studies are provided and explore the intersection of invasive species, climate change and ecosystem services, divided according to the ecosystems and impacts.

Coastal protection and integrity: two major consequences of climate change are the likely increase in storm severity and sea level rise. For instance, the degradation and destruction of low land island system and wetland areas off the coast of Louisiana (US) is considered to have allowed Hurricane Katrina to hit New Orleans in 2005 with more impact. Examples of invasive plants in coastal ecosystems include Vitex rotundifolia, perennial shrub native to Asia and the Pacific and causing significant loss of dunes and coastal habitats in North and South Carolina because its root system causes erosion.

Freshwater services and availability: climate change is expected to have major impacts on precipitation levels and timing, as well as on broad hydrological cycles. Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate variability. Throughout the world, there are a number of invasive species known to affect freshwater availability and services. Arundo donax, originating from Eurasia is having significant impacts on the hydrology of South Africa, it alters stream hydrology and sedimentation and increases the risk of flooding.
Eichhornia crassipes is also known to interfere with fishing activities, boating, irrigation, water treatment, hydroelectric power, human health, tourism and lake’s natural ecosystem.

Agriculture, livestock and food security: the effects of climate change will add stress to agricultural systems, specifically by increasing invasive species that impact crop and livestock production. Invasive species, in the form of plants, animals, insects and diseases, are already arguably the largest impediment to global food security and agricultural productivity. Increased outbreaks in invasive pathogens will also result in further economic strain on exporting countries due to trade bans and costs of meeting sanitary and phytosanitary requirements. There is also an increasing amount of evidence that demonstrates a decline in chemical efficacy of herbicides on invasive alien plants with rising CO2.

Other topics such as fisheries and marine ecosystems, human and wildlife health are also discussed. The use of biofuels as a climate change mitigation method has also gained considerable attention, in particular second generation biofuels derived from lingo-cellulosic crops. A review of almost 40 crops considered for biofuels found that about 75% of them had some record of being invasive, and the use of risk assessments is recommended before introducing such crops. Examples of crops used for biofuels that have records of invasive behavior include Jatropha curcas, Phalaris arundinacea and Prosopis juliflora.


Burgiel SW, Muir AA (2010) Invasive Species, climate change and ecosystem-based adaptation: addressing multiple drivers of global change. Global invasive species program. 55 pp. http://www.gisp.org/whatsnew/docs/Climate_Change_ReportA4.pdf