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Biological Invasion Risks and the Public Good: an Economic Perspective

Charles Perrings, University of York
Mark Williamson, University of York
Edward B Barbier, University of Wyoming
Doriana Delfino, University of York
Silvana Dalmazzone, University of Turin
Jason Shogren, University of Wyoming
Peter Simmons, University of York
Andrew Watkinson, University of East Anglia


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We postulate that the causes of the problem of invasive alien species are primarily economic and, as such, require economic solutions. Invasive alien species are of increasing concern for four reasons. First, introductions are increasing sharply, while mechanisms for excluding or eradicating alien species have been either withdrawn or progressively weakened. Both trends are due to the liberalization of and increase in international travel and trade, an economic phenomenon. Second, the costs of invasions are rising rapidly due partly to increasing human population density, and partly to increasing intensity of production in genetically impoverished agricultural systems. Third, biological invasions are associated with a high degree of uncertainty both because they involve novel interactions, and because invasion risks are endogenous. Actual risks depend on how people react to the possibility of invasions. Fourth, the exclusion and control of invasive species is a "weakest-link" public good. This places the well-being of society in the hands of the least effective provider. We argue that an economic solution to the problem of invasive species has two components. One is to use incentives to change human behavior so as to enhance protection against the introduction, establishment, and spread of invasive behavior. The other is to develop institutions that support the weakest members of global society, converting a "weakest-link" to a "best-shot" public good.

Key words

invasive species

Copyright © 2002 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087