Invasive species on the march - study

  • 16/02/2017
A possum (Getty)
The number of invasive species has been increasing over the past 200 years (Getty)

New Zealanders are being urged to remain vigilant in guarding the country's borders, with new research showing pests are continuing to spread around the world.

Professor Philip Hulme, from Lincoln University, says international efforts to prevent the entry and spread of pests, weeds, and diseases have not kept pace with globalisation.

"We can certainly expect more invasions in the future," he said.

Prof Hulme is a senior author of the study, which has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The study, involving an international team of 45 scientists, compiled more than 45,000 records of about 17,000 different species worldwide.

It found that the number of invasive species has been increasing over the past 200 years with no sign of slowing down.

At a global scale, this meant there were almost two new pest incursions somewhere in the world every day.

This increase was found to be associated with human activities - particularly agriculture, horticulture and global trade.

Prof Hulme said New Zealand needed to ensure biosecurity was right at the top of the business and tourism agenda.

"As a country with a unique flora and fauna as well as strong economic dependence of agriculture, it is vital for New Zealand to have stringent and robust biosecurity policies," he said.

"I'm not sure this message gets through enough to our millions of tourists, the airlines, or importers."

However, there are some positives.

New Zealand was one of the few countries shown to have fewer records of weed incursions in the last few decades.

"The success at reducing weed incursions is largely down to New Zealand implementing a strict biosecurity policy in 1993," Prof Hulme said.

"As such, our biosecurity systems can be viewed as a global example of best practice."