Invasive aquatic species are a ticking time bomb: scientists

August 07, 2023 12:54 am | Updated August 14, 2023 07:24 am IST - HYDERABAD

Invasive species, especially the aquatic variety in the country, is a ticking time bomb because of the yet-to-be-studied impact on biodiversity and impact on the economy - hence there is an urgent need for an overarching policy to tackle this, observed scientists and policymakers at a one-day workshop at the Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES-CCMB) on Saturday.

The workshop, Collaborative strategies for managing aquatic biological invasions, held as part of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) ‘One Week, One Lab’ programme, saw scientists seeking a comprehensive strategy for a sustainable future.

“Invasive species intentionally or otherwise have caused havoc to the flora and fauna across the country affecting even the pristine riverine systems in both eastern and western ghats putting a heavy pressure on the biodiversity systems,” said CCMB’s S. Umapathy. The African and American catfish among the fishes have reached alarming levels.

His colleague Karthikeyan Vasudevan explained how the “accidental” introduction of bullfrogs, spotted deers, giant snails, mynah, house sparrows and others in the Andamans Islands has led to damage to the local flora and fauna. “We need interventions and quickly. There are also ethics in removing invasive species though biological controls are always being tried,” he said.

TS Biodiversity Board Kallicharan S. Khartade said 25 of the 432 aquatic species have turned out to be invasive and spoke of the dangers of pollution, over-exploitation, encroachments, and tourism-recreation to biodiversity preservation. While community participation is imperative, the biodiversity management councils functioning need to be toned up.

Special chief secretary Rajat Kumar said “biological invasions” has led to US$ 127 billion dollars for the country and only 10 of the 330 invasive species of the total 2,700 have been studied. “We have a knowledge gap with no clear understanding of whether aquatic and semi-aquative species are more dangerous than terrestrial species. A concerted scientific action is necessary,” he said.

CSIR-CCMB Director Vinay K. Nandicoori spoke of the LaCONES research work and said the meeting has highlighted the need for ground-level interventions to monitor and eradicate aquatic invasive species, and also to protect the native biodiversity, safeguard the rural economy and improve sustainable aquaculture practices. Over 60 participants from various scientific institutions and voluntary bodies gave presentations.

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