Washington: A recent study has found out that the Cold War offered an odd benefit, as in it limited bird species invasions.
The research found that during an extended period following World War II, when most trade and travel was interrupted between Eastern Europe and its western counterparts, there were far fewer introduced bird species.
“Last year, people worldwide celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War,” said Susan Shirley, a research associate in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University.
“This signified a time of renewed freedom and opportunities for the countries of Eastern Europe. However, those new opportunities brought new challenges from an unexpected source,” she added.
The problem, according to Shirley, is that there’s often a correlation between politics, trade and ecosystem function.
“Global trade is a real concern for invasive species, and the lessons we can learn from the Cold War offer a warning flag to developing countries that are now expanding in an international economy,” Shirley said.
According to Shirley, control or eradication of invading species is extremely difficult and expensive, and prevention of animal importation is the only sure approach to address this problem.
It relates not just to birds, which were the focus of this research, but to forest pests, fisheries, non-native crustaceans and many other species.
“Traditionally, we don’t hear much about birds as an invasive species, but they can be,” said Shirley.
“The common myna, a subtropical bird, is a generalist predator and a crop pest, and has been included on a list of the 100 worst invasive species,” she said.
The study found that prior to the Cold War, Western Europe had 36 non-European introduced species and Eastern Europe had 11. By the time that period of international tension and restricted trade ended, Western Europe had experienced an increase to 54 non-European introduced bird species, but Eastern Europe had actually declined from 11 to five.
“The isolation of the Eastern European bloc from the west during the Cold War led to a decline in the number of birds introduced, the number of introduction events and the number of bird species established,” according to the study authors.
In light of that, the researchers suggest that clear policies need to be established to prevent further inflow of exotic species into previously isolated regions, and warn that the problems illustrated by this phenomenon in Europe may play out in similar ways all over the world as trade expands.