Montserrat Villa: “Invasive species introduced directly or indirectly by humans”

Catalonia has confirmed the presence of a new invasive wasp known as vespa orientalis. It entered the territory through the port of Barcelona. This route, the transportation of goods, is usually the main access for these organizations, as explained generality. Although this insect has recently arrived on Catalan soil, its presence was already known in other regions of the country.

“This species can have a serious impact on biodiversity and economic activity, beekeeping and fruit crops, and can represent a public health problem by producing a painful bite,” they explain from the Catalan government.

Specialists warn of the consequences these organisms can have on biodiversity. “They prey on native species, changing food cycles in all food webs,” says Montserrat Villa, researcher at the Donana Biological Station – CSIC, in an interview with This scholar has just returned from a conference focused on analyzing these invasions that took place in Estonia. He won last year Alejandro Malaspina National Research Award Awarded by the Ministry of Science for his contribution to the ecology of invasive alien species.

What does the discovery of the oriental wasp mean in Catalonia?

In Spain, it has been discovered for several years in Valencia and Granada. If detected, it may take longer [en la zona]. Wasps are predators and can be a problem for beekeepers and other insects as well [también son un riesgo] Bites that can cause.

So maybe it was already there but is now being discovered?

It could be because I don’t know that it was a species that was in the alert system and we knew about it.

The Wasp entered the port of Barcelona. What role does the transportation of goods play in the expansion of these animals?

Trade is very important. When we offer plastic, wood or food such as fruit and vegetables, we may offer eggs, larvae or seeds of exotic species. In addition, we also have to consider the species that we introduce directly, such as ornamental plants or pets.

Apart from trade, what other reasons might contribute to the emergence of invasive species?

By definition, these are species that have been introduced directly or indirectly by humans. Another entry point is large infrastructure that connects ecosystems that were previously separate, such as transfers or channels. The Suez Canal is the route that connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. If it didn’t exist, species would never be able to spread in this way.

What sectors do these species operate in?

Agriculture is the most famous. The weed, that there are native and exotic; And pestilence and pestilence. Now we are also concerned about the impact on biodiversity of these species as they compete with or prey on native species, altering nutrient cycles in the food web. We also monitor their impact on environmental services and quality of life, such as public health. Imagine that many pets run away, then breed and may be carriers of rabies or Legionella. They affect all areas, think of the zebra mussel, which has caused an economic impact.

Is the arrival of these organisms a result of globalization?

We can no longer live without globalization and movement, but we must know that we cannot go to another country and take seeds with us. You should also consider that there is a lot of shopping on the internet. If you go to a pet store, you may not be able to buy many varieties, but online you can make the change you want.

When people buy a pet or ornamental plant, [sería recomendable que] It should be informed in advance whether this plant can be invasive or not. Never leave pets unattended in the field. Sometimes people do this with good intentions, thinking that they will live better, and no, of course, they will either die or reproduce very quickly. The same [sucede] with garden pruning debris. If you leave them in a natural space, the cuttings will establish; The seeds can form a bank and multiply.

There is a need for earlier detection and prevention. When the tiger mosquito appeared in the first populations, we started looking for it, maybe we could eliminate it, but now it is impossible.

How do these species fight expansion?

with prevention and early detection. Now that the oriental wasp has been discovered [en Catalunya]Monitoring can be done in areas where they are likely to be found to try to eliminate them when they are few [ejemplares]. The same thing happened with the tiger mosquito. If it had appeared in the first cities, Sant Cugat (Barcelona), if we had started looking for it, we might have been able to eliminate it, but now it is impossible.

What mechanisms should the administration implement to act more effectively?

More early detection and more education, for example, among environmental agents. Also more citizen information. More control and more risk analysis.

New Zealand prevented the organisms from entering its territory unless there was evidence that they were harmless. Was this strategy successful? What do you think about this method?

New Zealand is a very remote country where few people live and everything can be controlled quite well. This is an example of what they call biosecurity. Everything here is very one-sided: there is plant health, which is responsible for protecting the crop; animal health, with veterinarians at the fore; An environment where species affected by biodiversity are monitored and the Ministry of Defense ensures that we are not invaded by another country. It is intended to be integrated biosecurity. I believe [el modelo neozelandés] It can be done in an isolated place or a small country that is an island, but here it is very difficult. Note that there is free trade and free movement of people in the EU.

According to the calculations of 2021, it turns out that the biological invasion in our country cost 232 million euros during the last quarter of a century. As reported by Why is the economic toll on these species so high?

Because of the impact it causes and because of the management we can do. There’s a lot of monitoring and there’s a lot of areas where exotic species are eliminated and it takes work, it’s manual labor and it’s very difficult.

What is meant by the greater economic damage, the consequences that may result from the expansion of these species or the struggle to prevent them from multiplying?

Like public health, prevention is always much cheaper in the long run than dealing with disease and cure. It’s the same thing we saw with COVID-19: the more we can fight in the early stages, the better.

Has there been an increase in these species in recent years?

New species are always entering the country. This week we found this wasp and last week the algae On the coast of Catalonia. growing, yes. Perhaps the mammal invasion remains stable because there is much more control; or by directly and deliberately introduced species, as there are more and more bans. A hunter cannot import deer from another country. It is forbidden, but there are many casual introductions, and this is primarily due to increased trade.

Based on what you say about mammals, in which species is the greater expansion seen?

I would say in insects. Consider that there are fewer species of mammals and therefore the curve is less exponential, it flattens. But, in the case of insects, it increases.

Source: El Diario





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