Invasive invertebrates in natural ecosystemsInvasive species are organisms (usually transported by humans) that successfully establish, and then thrive, in new environments. Invasive species, together with habitat destruction, have been a major cause of extinction of native species throughout the world in the past few hundred years.
An invasive species can be a micro-organism that causes disease; a plant or animal that competes with a native species for resources (like food or space); a predator of native species; and/or an organism that alters the way an ecosystem works. All these effects can be harmful to native species, and in some cases lead to extinctions.
In New Zealand there are more than 2000 species of invasive invertebrates already established. Some of these, such as Vespula wasps, have become abundant invaders that threaten our native ecosystems. More invasive invertebrates are continually arriving.
Landcare Research is investigating the risk to natural ecosystems posed by invasive ant species established in New Zealand, developing strategies to control wasps and ants, as well as any other invaders that might breach our borders. We are also interested in assessing the potential impacts of new invasive invertebrates and designing monitoring programmes to detect invertebrates before they can establish. The ultimate aim of this research is to protect and restore New Zealand's indigenous biodiversity and natural ecosystems.