How are invasive species damaging Colombian biodiversity?
According to Colombian National University and Bogotá’s Botanical Garden there are more than 300 invasive species in the country. Invasive species can damage ecosystems, affect the local economy and public health making them a threat to consider.
Among this group are the European pigeons Columba livia, lionfish Pterois volitans and the African land snail Achatina fulica which have taken over areas in Bogotá, the Caribbean and the amazon region. According to a study published by Alexander von Humboldt’s Institute, invasive species are the second cause of extinction of species in the world just behind habitat loss.
With this in mind, the Global Invasive Species Database GISD aims to increase public awareness about invasive species and to facilitate effective prevention and management activities. Also the Global Invasive Species Program GISP is working to get most of the countries to implement policies and strategies to manage and control invasive species in their territories by 2020.
But why do these species succeed? According to a study from the Singaporean National University invasive species usually successful because they have high fertility rates, genetic diversity, few diet restrictions and habitat use. Also they can easily adapt to populated regions.
These species benefit also from the lack of natural predators and competition. Also the regions they invade have a similar weather to the species’ original, low biodiversity rates and no predators similar to the invasive species. Unfortunately, the regions in Colombia where there are invasive species have these characteristics.
Here are some of this species:
They are common inhabitants of the cities’ squares. They’ve adapted to life in the cities because they easily find water and food. For example, in Bogota’s Plaza de Bolivar they’re fed by tourists and visitors. Pigeons’ excrement can transmit many infectious diseases.
Lionfish was first sighted in Colombia in 2008, although until May 2009 it was made official. They feed on at least 50 native species and each individual needs 100 grams of food per day and in some regions their population is of at least 1 million.
African land snail:
They devour crops and gardens, also transmit parasites that can affect the human health. They’re considered as one of the 100 most dangerous invasive species and were first seen in Colombia in 2008. They are currently in 26 departments.
In the center region of Colombia there is a growing hippo population. They were brought by Pablo Escobar in 1981 as part of his personal zoo. The species doesn’t have more than 100 specimens it poses a threat both to people and the region’s cattle.
Although there are measures being taken in the country like the adoption of the Biologic Diversity Agreement of a National Plan for the prevention and management of invasive species there is still work to be done. The Humboldt Institute research team, in an interview with Mongabay Latam, believes that the Colombian government should prioritize the work to control and manage the invasive species over economic interests.