New Zealand is losing the war against weeds

New research* highlights how the lack of success in controlling weeds on agricultural and conservation land is challenging New Zealand’s position as a global leader in biosecurity.

Weeds are costing the country billions of dollars every year.

In a state-of-the-art review of how weeds are managed in New Zealand, Professor Philip Hulme has called for a paradigm shift in our approach.

“Unfortunately, we have rather little to show for the vast amount of time and effort government and landowners invest in the management of weeds,” said Professor Hulme, of the Bio-Protection Research Centre based at Lincoln University. Continue reading

Lincoln researcher again among world’s most influential

Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme, based at the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University, has been named as a Highly Cited Researcher for the sixth year in a row.

Each year, the Web of Science Group identifies the world’s most influential researchers – those who have been most frequently cited by their peers over the last decade.

In 2019, fewer than 6300 or 0.1 per cent, of the world’s researchers, across 21 research fields, have earned this distinction.

This means Distinguished Professor Hulme has again reached the threshold of producing papers that rank in the top 1 per cent by citations.

The Professor of Plant Biosecurity was awarded the Royal Society Te Apārangi Hutton Medal this year, an award given to researchers significantly advancing understanding in animal, earth, or plant sciences.

It recognised his work investigating how invasive plant species are introduced, how they become established, the harm they cause and what can be done to prevent or manage invasions.

Distinguished Professor Hulme has published over 200 papers in international journals.

He was elected a Fellow of Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2013, and in 2018 was given the Leonard Cockayne Lecture Award.

He was granted the title of Distinguished Professor by Lincoln University last year.

Source: Lincoln University

Lecture series: can invasive plants and non-native weeds choke our country?


Professor Philip Hulme

Professor Philip Hulme, this year’s recipient of the Leonard Cockayne Lecture Award, will present a series of talks on the current and future threats to New Zealand by non-native plants and the policies and tools that are needed to control them.

Based at New Zealand’s Bio-Protection Research Centre and Chair in Plant Biosecurity at Lincoln University, Professor Hulme is being recognised for his scholarship and scientific achievements that have significantly progressed global understanding of the causes and consequences of biological invasions.

Royal Society Te Apārangi Vice-President Professor Barry Scott says Professor Hulme is a leading New Zealand researcher on the ecology of invasions by plant species.

The aim of his work is to provide tools to scientists, conservation and policy-makers to deal with biological invasions.

His studies are not confined to New Zealand but include a wide range of collaborations with overseas scientists.

He is one of New Zealand’s most highly cited scientists being included for the fourth year in a row in The Thompson Reuters list of most highly cited scientists worldwide. He is the only New Zealand-based environmental scientist to be included in this global list.

In the series of five talks across the country, Professor Hulme will discuss how many of our introduced plant species, including those that were thought of as harmless for home and botanic gardens, are now posing significant economic and environmental costs.

He also will delve into why both the government and communities need to become more effective in preventing and controlling these plant invaders.

“New Zealand’s environment and agricultural production are central to the economy, and biosecurity threats are a major concern for the sustainable use of these resources,” he says.

Everybody is welcome to attend these free public events but the Royal Society Te Aparangi recommends registering to guarantee seat(s).


Palmerston North | Palmerston North Central Library, Events Central – register for Palmerston North
7:30pm Wednesday 9 May

Napier | EIT, Lecture Theatre LTH1 – register for Napier
7:30pm Thursday 10 May

Christchurch | University of Canterbury, C2 Central Lecture Theatres – register for Christchurch
6:30pm Wednesday 16 May

Wellington | Royal Society Te Apārangi, Aronui Lecture Theatre – register for Wellington
6:30pm Wednesday 23 May

Nelson | Nelson Elim Christian Centre – register for Nelson
7:30pm Tuesday 5 June

This event is presented by the society in partnership with the Bio-Protection Research Centre.

Source: Royal Society Te Aparangi

Alien pest incursions threaten New Zealand’s primary industries

New Zealand’s environment and primary industries are under threat from pests we don’t even know about yet, says Professor Philip Hulme of the Bio-Protection Research Centre, based at Lincoln University.

Professor Hulme was part of a large international collaboration of scientists who analysed 46,000 recorded sightings of invasive animal and plant species around the world. Their research* showed that one in every four new pest incursions were from species that had never before been recorded as being invasive.

“We looked at patterns over the last five centuries to see whether there was any evidence of a slowdown in the number of new pests and weeds emerging around the world, but there wasn’t,” said Professor Hulme.

“Just as many new pests are emerging now as in previous centuries.

“If we look at the pests and weeds already in New Zealand, most have come from Europe, Australia or North America, our traditional trade partners and sources of immigration. However, Asia is now becoming more important to both trade and immigration, and this is where many new pests and weeds appear to be coming from.”

Professor Hulme says we may be entering a new era for biosecurity as we face an increasing wave of unknown emerging pest species.

“We need to make sure our biosecurity system is sufficiently flexible and well-resourced to deal with unexpected incursions by species we probably will know nothing about,” says Professor Hulme.

“The responsibility rests with all of us: government, industry, the public, and every tourist who crosses our borders,” says Prof Hulme.

He urged everybody to be vigilant, understand the risks and take action in a way that minimises the chances of any new pest or disease crossing our borders.

*Seebens, H., Blackburn TM, Dyer EE, Genovesi P, Hulme PE et al. (2018): Global rise in emerging alien species results from increased accessibility of new source pools. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1719429115

Biosecurity warning: NZ needs to be alert as global pest threat grows

Armed with new research showing pests are continuing to spread around the world, a biosecurity expert is sounding a warning for New Zealand to continue to be vigilant about guarding its borders.

Professor Philip Hulme, of the Bio-Protection Centre at Lincoln University, is a senior author on the study which shows international efforts to prevent the entry and spread of pests, weeds, and diseases have not been sufficient to keep up with the pace of globalisation, and we can certainly expect more invasions in the future.

It revealed the number of invasive species worldwide has been increasing over the last 200 years with no sign of slowing down. At a global scale, this means that there are almost two new pest incursions somewhere in the world every day.

New Zealand needs to ensure biosecurity is right at the top of the business and tourism agenda, Professor Hulme says.

“As a country with a unique flora and fauna as well as strong economic dependence of agriculture, it is vital for New Zealand to have stringent and robust biosecurity policies.

“I’m not sure this message gets through enough to our millions of tourists, the airlines, or importers,” he says.

The study, involving an international team of 45 scientists, found increases in invasive species were associated with human activities, particularly the expansion of agriculture, horticulture and global trade.

While new species can boost diversity in an area, they can also have detrimental impacts on the native ecosystem, economy, environment and human health. In some cases, they can even bring about the extinction of native species.

Among the positives, New Zealand was one of the few countries shown to have fewer records of weed incursions in the last few decades.

“The success at reducing weed incursions is largely down to New Zealand implementing a strict biosecurity policy in 1993,” says Professor Hulme, “as such, our biosecurity systems can be viewed as a global example of best practice.”

Altogether, the researchers compiled more than 45,000 records of about 17,000 different species worldwide, including plants, birds, insects, mammals, fishes, fungi, algae and molluscs. Getting this long-term data is difficult and these numbers are likely to underestimate the full extent of species incursions, Professor Hulme says.

The study’s findings highlight the continued need for improvements in national legislation and international agreements to help mitigate invasions and keep up with impacts from increasing globalisation.

“New Zealand is already leading the way and hopefully through Biosecurity 2025, New Zealand is on the road to futureproofing the system to meet increasing global trade and travel that present continual new challenges,” says Professor Hulme.

Seebens et al (2016). No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications DOI: 101.1038/ncomms14435 (HERE)