The Program of Research on the Economics of Invasive Species Management (PREISM), administered by USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) has awarded $1.1 million in research grants to seven universities to study the economic implications of preventing, controlling, or eradicating invasive pests and diseases. Research priorities tend toward threats from introduced pests and pathogens to the agricultural and forestry sectors where economic impacts are more readily quantified than quantifying impacts on ecosystem services and biodiversity.
Compared to the economic impacts of invasive organisms like avian bird flue and hoof and mouth disease, the costs associated with these very modest grants are small indeed, but the twin grails of invasive species control are effective mechanisms for early-detection/rapid response and the development of selective forms of biocontrol. Several of the grants focus on cost/benefit studies and evaluation of support systems for ER/RD, which are about the only hope for holding the line against rapidly expanding invasive pests like emerald ash borer or pathogens like sudden oak death. Some invasive species experts acknowledge that for the next decade at least, containment is the only option for some pathogens until research and development produces effective biocontrols. There is an exponential rise in cost of control the more time elapses between a new invasion and its detection and between detection and response. Given the scale and scope of the problem - it is a matter of homeland security, after all - the level of investment by the Federal government in these grants is well below what the problem requires. Then again, any level of federal investment is worth encouraging.
CWCID: Environmental Valuation