A team led by a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa zoologist has published the first-ever assessment of snail and slug species that would pose a threat to the nation’s agriculture industry and the environment if introduced in the United States.
Robert H. Cowie, of the Center for Conservation Research and Training, and his mainland colleagues evaluated all known snail and slug pests globally to determine which species would be of greatest concern in terms of their potential impacts on U.S. agriculture, environment or human health.
After a thorough review of literature and input from gastropod experts, they ranked 46 species or groups of closely related species according to 12 attributes—both biological variables and aspects of human interaction.
The assessment of snails and slugs from around the world was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the American Malacological Society.
Published in the July 2009 issue of American Malacological Bulletin, the research offers a tool for national agriculture inspection officials in their efforts to keep invasive pest species out of the country.
“The study is preliminary because of the serious lack of basic knowledge about many of these potentially invasive species,” says Cowie. Still, he calls it an important first step in protecting the U.S. and stimulating additional research on these poorly understood potential pests.