(photo credit: SHMUEL BAR-AM)
It could start with
something as innocuous as getting a goldfish or a turtle as a present
and then letting it loose in the wild, or bringing in a new type of
insect or plant for agricultural purposes.Finally,
Israel should create a plant and animal blacklist, to prevent
species that could become invasive from being imported altogether.
Such actions could
devastate local ecosystems, experts warned on Monday at the Society for
the Protection of Nature in Israel’s annual conference at the
International Conference Center (Binyanei Ha’uma) in the capital.
process isn’t always fast – it can take 20 years for an invasive
species to overcome local competition, Nature and Parks Authority
scientist Dr. Noam Lider warned. Yet slowly but surely, a turtle
released into the Yarkon can eat up all of the plant life in the stream.
A plant brought from elsewhere can spread over vast areas, choking life
from the land. The Asian tiger mosquito brings with it from Southeast
Asia dangerous viruses and fevers like West Nile virus, Yellow Fever and
Invasive species don’t have natural competition
when they arrive in the new habitat and so are able to grow unchecked,
society tries to bridge science, policy gap
In the US, invasive species cause $136 billion
of damage annually, according to Lider.
While the strategy for
keeping out or containing and eradicating invasive species is well
defined, it has not been implemented well in Israel, the panel of
Right now, the strategy for dealing with these
plants and animals includes several steps, Lider said. The best is
preventing them from reaching Israel in the first place. If they do
arrive, they should be eradicated forthwith. If this proves impossible,
they should be contained, and if that doesn’t work, then nothing is left
but to surrender to the inevitable and try to figure out how to
accommodate the new species.
Dr. Jean-Marc Dufour-Dror, an
environmental consultant, proposed a national action plan for dealing
with invasive species.
“We’ve garnered a lot of knowledge in the
last 15 years about invasive species and the plan is drawn from that
knowledge base,” he said.
Dufour-Dror proposed three cornerstone
principles to guide the policy.
Invasive species grow in two
phases: the lag phase and the exponential phase. The lag phase is where
they grow slowly, which could last for years. The exponential phase is
where they proliferate at a tremendous rate. Therefore, the species need
to be monitored and eradicated in the lag phase, before they reach the
Second, the attempt to eradicate large
populations is misdirected. Large populations are too big and grow back
too quickly, so any elimination efforts “are like running in place.”
Instead, small populations should be targeted and eradicated as there’s a
better chance for success.
Ronit Justo-Hanani, a lawyer and scientist, said such a list wasn’t
possible now because there were too many loopholes in the law. She said
a comprehensive legislative overhaul or a core legislation was needed
to effectively deal with invasive species. For example, the Plant
Protection Law of 1956 should theoretically enable protection, but it
only applies to agricultural products. The National Parks Law of 1998,
she continued, doesn’t allow for blacklisting plants and animals.
While a new body to deal with the issue and consolidate authority in
one place would be ideal, according to Justo-Hanani, it was more
realistic to work for a legislative overhaul.