Invasive alien parakeets pose a number of risks to Europe’s economy and society, which worryingly are likely to increase as global climate change creates a warmer Europe. First, they pose a risk to agriculture. Farming practices will increasingly have to adapt to warmer climates; for example, maize, pecan nuts and sunflower will become more popular crops as mean temperatures rise. Parakeets are widely documented as being a pest of these crops, reducing maize yields by up to 81 per cent in their native range. Furthermore, parakeets raid and cause significant damage to orchards and vineyards, sectors also set to expand as climates warm and which already note significant parakeet damage. Therefore, climate-driven expansion of parakeet populations across Europe will place increasing pressure on the economy. Second, parakeets pose a disease risk. These birds have the potential to transmit notifiable diseases to livestock and humans, such as psittacosis (‘parrot fever’ in humans, which is the primary cause of abortion in sheep), Newcastle’s Disease and avian influenza. Their capacity to do so may increase as their populations grow in size and density (they can form very large roosts, providing opportunities for widespread disease transmission). Nevertheless, calls for culling are often unpopular: many people like having green parrots in their cities/gardens, regarding them as a harmless ornament. Therefore, parakeets attract both strong public support and concern, representing a complex socio-environmental conflict.
Research activities on parakeets have, so far, been isolated from one another, limiting any scope for wider synthesis to address the parakeet problem across Europe and beyond. The use of multiple methods makes it difficult to harmonise approaches across the EU landscape. Consequently, results cannot be generalised and knowledge gaps cannot be easily identified and filled. Therefore, current efforts to characterise agro-economic and societal impacts (and to forecast risks) of parakeets across Europe and the means to mitigate them are severely compromised. More broadly, a spatial, temporal and societal perspective of invasion is sadly lacking, but is crucial to address, understand and solve the ‘alien species problem’. The Action will tackle these complex interdisciplinary issues for the parakeet and thereby develop an approach for dealing with the 12 other invasive parrot species recently established in Europe.
More information is available at the main project website.