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Alvarez, S., & Solis, D. (2019). Rapid Response Lowers Eradication Costs of Invasive Species: Evidence from Florida.
Of the approximately 50,000 nonnative species that have been introduced into the United States, nearly 4,600 of them are classified as harmful invasive species (Pimentel et al., 2000; Corn et al., 2002). These organisms have caused major economic and environmental damages to the tune of $120 billion per year (Pimentel, Zuniga, and Robinson, 2005). Invasive species have also been found to negatively impact human well-being (Jones, 2017) and to induce trophic cascades (Walsh, Carpenter, and Vander Zanden, 2016). The annual toll inflicted by invasive species to U.S. agriculture is significant: Pest insects cause an estimated $13 billion in crop losses on top of the $1.2 billion farmers spend in insecticides, while weeds cause an estimated reduction of 12% in crop yields ($33 billion in production losses) despite $3 billion spent on herbicides each year (Pimentel et al., 2000). Similarly, invasive forest pests cause nearly $5 billion in damages and losses throughout the United States, including $2.25 billion in costs to governments, $2.55 billion in costs to homeowners, and $152 million in losses to timber producers (Aukema et al., 2011). In the past 40 years, biological invaders and the risk associated with them have increased mainly due to rapid human population growth and mobility coupled with radical alteration of ecosystems across the globe. In addition, more goods and materials are being traded between nations than ever before, creating opportunities for unintentional introductions (Perrings et al., 2002; Evans, 2003; Alvarez, 2016). Recent analyses on invasion threats indicate that the level of damages to agriculture worldwide is likely to increase, with major food-producing nations such as the United States, Canada, China, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa among the most threatened nations (Paini et al., 2016). While government agencies have developed guidance documents with specific recommendations for early detection and rapid response (National Invasive Species Council, 2016; U.S. Department of the Interior, 2016) and some international agreements mention invasive species (Lodge et al., 2016), there are no clear science-based national policies to deal with invasive species in the United States (Mhina et al., 2016). Instead, response efforts have been established on a case-by-case basis, and policy makers and stakeholders play a big role in deciding which invasions are targeted for control or eradication and when those efforts are to take place. Here we offer evidence that the economic costs associated with invasive species is in large part determined by the response time between arrival of a pest and the beginning of eradication or control efforts. To make our case, we first discuss the three phases of a biological invasion and the main strategies—in terms of response time—that policy makers have followed to deal with the threat. We also present a review of representative biological invasions that have affected Florida’s agriculture industry, categorized by the invasion phase in which eradication efforts were implemented. Finally, we discuss policy implications and recommendations.
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