Battling Invasive Species

Invasive species are recognized as the second biggest threat to global ecosystems after natural habitat destruction. They are defined as non-native species of flora and fauna whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic harm, environmental harm, or harm to human health. The term "invasive" is used for the most aggressive of these species as they grow and reproduce rapidly, causing major disturbances to nature in areas in which they are present. In the USA it is estimated that invasive species cause $120 billion worth of damage annually!

parakeets fighting for territory with a Syrian woodpecker


Since 2001 we have identified 29 different invasive species in Israel – including species which are traditionally found in China and Australia. SPNI is leading the campaign against invasive species in Israel, developing strategies to prevent their spread and combatting existing populations. We have singlehandedly put it on the national agenda with a committee set up to deal with the problem and a combined task force from the Ministries of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and the Nature and Parks Authority is now working to eradicate Burr ragweed Ambrosia confertiflora  from the country. 


A nursery taking part in our campaign

In 2009 a law initiated by SPNI was passed by the Ministry of Agriculture preventing the import of certain invasive plant species to protect local agriculture. The signed law however contained a loophole - no prohibition on the sale of plants already in Israel. SPNI has been working since then to close this loophole even with the Ministry of Agriculture repeatedly refusing.

SPNI has educated and appealed directly to commercial plant nurseries to voluntarily remove invasive species from their shelves, and suggesting safe alternatives. We want to demonstrate that business owners will not be adversely affected by these restrictions and give the Ministry of Agriculture the confidence to amend the law. So far 25 nurseries and chains from across the country have joined us. We’ve been helping them by putting together guides for gardeners, professional and amateur, presenting safe alternatives to dangerous invasive species.

We are also working with mining companies Hanson and Readymix to treat invasive species becoming introduced around their quarrying operations. The techniques developed during this collaboration have been adopted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection as an ecological code of conduct for new quarrying operations.

Our national educational programs now include a module on invasive species, with a focus on teaching our younger generation not to release their unwanted pets into the wild, especially goldfish and birds. Together with the Nature and Park Authority we’ve also put up posters in pet shops asking owners not to release unwanted pets in the wild as we’re concerned they could become invasive themselves or that they carry harmful parasites. 


The rapid response team in action

Tackling established populations of invasive species is an expensive process. SPNI has developed an app enabling the public to report on invasive species they spot in nature. We then forward these to the authorities such as the Nature and Parks Authority and JNF-KKL to treat them. SPNI also has a Rapid Response Team which has the tools and knowledge to safely treat invasive plant species without harming the surrounding wildlife.

Through our Community Branches and Field Schools we organize events, large and small, for concerned citizens to take action. Groups of students, community activists and even soldiers in the IDF have taken part in our events to uproot invasive plant species such as camphorweed from beaches along the coast in large scale events attended by hundreds of concerned citizens.

It’s going to be a tough fight as countries around the world are finding but with proper mechanisms to stop new invasive species from establishing themselves and the government’s resources SPNI is confident that this is a battle that can be won.

The Worst Invasive Species in Israel

  • Blue Leafed Wattle Acacia Saligna (Australia)
  • Camphorweed Heterotheca subaxillaris (USA)
  • Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima (China)
  • Water Hyacinth Eichornia crassipes (South America)
  • Water Lettuce Pistia stratiotes (Tropics)
  • Sourgrass Oxalis pes-caprae (South Africa)
  • Burr ragweed Ambrosia confertiflora (North America)
  • Electric Ant/Small Fire Ant Wasmannia auropunctata (Central/South America)
  • Rose Necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri (Indian Subcontinent/Africa)
  • Indian Myna Acridotheres tristis (Asia/Indian Subcontinent)
  • Coypu Myocastor coypus (South America)