Oct. 1 (UPI) — The number alien species is projected to increase by 36 percent by 2050, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Global Change Biology.
Species are classified as alien when they colonize habitat outside their native ranges.
To predict how many new species will become aliens in the decades ahead, researchers relied on a mathematical model to analyze current rates of invasion, consider the source pool of possible invaders and produce simulations based on a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario.
The model predicted that by the middle of the century, there will be 36 percent more alien plant and animal species than there were in 2005.
If current invasion rates continue apace, the data suggests Europe will fare particularly poorly, with the continent expected to welcome 2,500 new alien species over the next 45 years — a 64 percent increase, double the projected global increase.
“Our study predicts that alien species will continue to be added to ecosystems at high rates through the next few decades, which is concerning as this could contribute to harmful biodiversity change and extinction,” study co-author Tim Blackburn said in a news release.
“But we are not helpless bystanders: with a concerted global effort to combat this, it should be possible to slow down or reverse this trend,” said Blackburn, a professor of invasion biology at the University College London.
Besides Europe, the new simulations showed temperate latitudes in Asia, North America and South America are also likely to welcome a pronounced uptick in alien invaders. Conversely, Australia is expected to see a relatively small number of new alien species.
In Europe, the invaders won’t always be obvious.
“These will primarily include rather inconspicuous new arrivals such as insects, molluscs and crustaceans,” said lead study author Hanno Seebens.
“In contrast, there will