From: EurActive
Published February 22, 2013 05:41 AM

Europe's Unexpected Immigration Problem - Wildlife!

Animals and plants brought to Europe from other parts of the world are a bigger-than-expected threat to health and the environment costing at least €12 billion a year, a study said on Thurday (21 February).

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More than 10,000 'alien' species have gained a foothold in Europe, from Asian tiger mosquitoes to North American ragweed, and at least 1,500 are known to be harmful, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said.

"In many areas, ecosystems are weakened by pollution, climate change and fragmentation. Alien species invasions are a growing pressure on the natural world which are extremely difficult to reverse," said Jacqueline McGlade, head of the EEA.

Introduced species that suddenly thrive in a new home in Europe, including parakeets from Africa or water hyacinth from the Amazon, were estimated to cost Europe at least €12 billion a year, according to the 118-page study.

"Our number is an underestimate," said Piero Genovesi, a lead author at the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, adding that it omitted the impacts of many species such as tropical 'killer algae' in the Mediterranean.

"The problem has exploded in the last 100 years," he said. Europe had the most data but the problem was worsening worldwide, he said. And more travel, trade and climate change were likely to aggravate the invasions.

Common Ragweed photo via Shutterstock.

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