Discover the economic, social and environmental impacts of invasive species

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Impacts of invasive species

Invasive species have a range of impacts. Get a quick overview of how they affect biodiversity, the environment and people around the world below. To hear testimonials from people affected by invasives, visit our Stories page and for more in-depth information, browse the publications on our Research page.

An African farmer in a field of crops damaged by pests

Economic impacts

Agriculture, forestry and fishing are of huge importance to the economies of developing countries. Invasive species affect the productivity of these systems, and limit the ability of producers to access export markets. This hinders sustainable economic growth and development. The impacts of invasive species include:

  • Value and quality of land degraded
  • Lower crop productivity
  • High cost of controlling pests, weeds and diseases
  • Routes to domestic and global markets blocked
  • Livestock forced into marginal, sub-optimal grazing lands
A woman outside a hut in Ethiopia

Social impacts

Invasive species are a major threat to the livelihoods of the people who live in the areas they colonize. Through disrupting ecosystems, invasive plants, insects and diseases impair many of the things humans need to sustain a good quality of life – including food and shelter, health, security and social interaction. The impacts of invasive species include:

  • Livelihood options narrowed
  • Food security decreased
  • Recreational and social opportunities limited
  • Risks to human and animal health
  • Increased social challenges
A thin cow surrounded by prickly pear cactus

Environmental impacts

Biodiversity is essential for the functioning of the ecosystems that provide vital resources such as food, water, fuel, building material and traditional medicines for millions of people. Invasive species alter and degrade the environment, and have a negative effect on both native species and the people who live and work there. The impacts of invasive species include:

  • Reduced biodiversity
  • Decreased availability and quality of key natural resources
  • Water shortages
  • Increased frequency of wildfires and flooding
  • Pollution caused by overuse of chemicals to control infestations
An African female farmer working in a field

Impacts in Africa

In Africa, invasive species disrupt ecosystems and threaten agricultural systems and crop productivity across the continent – often in countries which already suffer from droughts and food insecurity. For example, fall armyworm has the potential to cause maize yield losses up to 17.7 million tonnes per annum in Africa, equivalent to US$ 4.6 billion.

Impacts in Asia

In Asia, invasive species reduce biodiversity and cause large losses to key crops – depleting the natural resources many people rely on for food, fuel and medicines. For example, invasive pests including the common rice black bug attacks rice at all growth stages and cause losses of up to 35%, equivalent to US$55m, affecting the food security and income of 474 million people across Asia.

Parthenium in Vegetable Fields.


CABI is an international not-for-profit organisation that works to improve people’s lives worldwide by solving problems in agriculture and the environment. CABI’s work is delivered through dedicated teams and key partners in 49 countries across the globe.


Plantwise is a global programme led by CABI which aims to increase food security and improve rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses. Through a network of plant clinics, Plantwise helps smallholder farmers lose less of what they grow to pests and diseases.