Man in swamp with insect net

Surveys for biological control agents are conducted in an invasive plant's home range.

Biosecurity and invasive species

CSIRO research is helping to manage the increasing threat and damage from invasive alien species that come with globalisation.

  • 2 June 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011

Increasing globalisation has lead to an increase in invasions by new species around the world, and Australia is no exception.

It is estimated that alien invertebrate and vertebrate pests and weeds cost Australia at least A$7 billion a year and, globally, the costs of invasive alien species (IAS) are around US$350 billion.

Twenty five percent of costs to consumers associated with food products are due to invasive weeds, pests and diseases. 

The IUCN recognises Invasive species as part of a lethal cocktail together with climate change and habitat destruction as a major cause of biodiversity loss.

There are also many potential new IAS threats to Australia’s agricultural industries and biodiversity. Should these enter the country, their effects could be devastating. For example, the arrival of:

  • Russian wheat aphid could reduce cereal production by 20 per cent
  • Varroa mite would knock out A$30 million a year in free pollination services from feral bees
  • the arrival of Eucalyptus rust from Hawaii could decimate our forests.

Protecting Australia's biosecurity is not just a matter of stopping things at the border. There is a quarantine continuum of pre-border, border and post border prevention of invasive species.

CSIRO research on invasive species is helping secure the biosecurity of Australia’s agriculture and natural environment.

Our research areas and its aims

CSIRO is undertaking research at all three levels of quarantine to help protect Australia's ecosystems both natural and man-made:

  • pre-border work, including:
    • risk assessments of potential exotic pests, for example, the kaphra beetle of stored grain
    • designing crops resistant to known threats, for example, wheat resistant to Russian wheat aphid
  • border protection, including:
    • port surveillance and diagnostics for National Priority Threats such as Varroa mite, a potential threat to Australia’s pollination services
  • post-border work to reduce the impact of national priority invasive pests and weeds on agricultural sustainability and the environment, for example:
    • weeds such as bridal creeper and mimosa
    • primary industry pests such as the grain weevil and Helicoverpa
    • developing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) packages for key agricultural industries, especially grains, cotton and horticulture
    • vertebrate pests such as rabbits and carp.

As the only research organisation to provide a national capability in biosecurity, CSIRO is in a position to facilitate the development of a national approach to these issues under the National Biosecurity Committee and the Australian Biosecurity System.

A national policy framework is being developed following the Beale review (2008) for enhanced collaboration on biosecurity issues affecting primary production and the environment.

What we are doing and the outcomes

Our research areas include:

  • preparedness - including risk analysis and response, with the CRC for National Plant Biosecurity
  • ecology, evolution and management of invasive plants with the Australian Weed Research Centre
  • innovate approaches for controlling National Priority vertebrate pests with the Invasive Animals CRC
  • post-harvest product integrity with the CRC for National Plant Biosecurity.

The end result of the research will be:

  • ground-tested management strategies and tools that are adopted by industries
  • prioritisation systems for emerging threats developed through risk assessment and the adoption of these
  • assisting and engaging the development of an Australian Biosecurity System.

Read more about CSIRO’s weed research.