Biological invasion risks and the public good: an economic perspective

Charles Perrings, Mark Williamson, Edward B. Barbier, Doriana Delfino, Silvana Dalmazzone, Jason Shogren, Peter Simmons, A. Watkinson

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324 Citations (Scopus)


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introductions are increasing sharply, while mechanisms for excluding or eradicating alien species have been either withdrawn or progressively weakened.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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalConservation Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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