Scientists warn of “alien” invasions on earth and the need for planetary biosecurity

Biological pollution would endanger both ecosystems and human well-being.

Foto:
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Scientists from McGill University, located in Montreal, Canada, warned of a possible “alien invasion”, and not as a science fiction scene, but on a microscopic level.

According to data from the scientific journal BioScience, the risk does not come from aliens arriving in their spaceships, but from microbiological contamination of the Earth from extraterrestrial environments and vice versa.

According to these publications, these microorganisms are a threat to the sustainability of ecosystems and human well-being.

Due to human activities, the spread rate of alien, invertebrate, vertebrate, and plant microbes across the planet is unprecedentedly high without any sign of saturation.

Even, say there is recent evidence that humans inadvertently introduced drug-resistant bacteria into the Antarctic ecosystem, infecting seabirds and seals.

Thus, Anthony Ricciardi of McGill University points out that, despite considerable microbial caution from space agencies, “Bacterial strains showing extreme resistance to ionizing radiation, desiccation and disinfectants” have been discovered in NASA clean rooms used for the assembly of spaceships.

The authors of the research thus warn that biological contamination endangers both ecosystems and human well-being. “Due to their enormous costs to the resource sectors and human health, biological invasions are a global biosecurity problem that requires rigorous cross-border solutions,” as also pointed out by the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Nevertheless, The warning is not new: in 2013 scientists had already observed the extremely radiation resistant microorganisms that can survive the extreme conditions of space they could jeopardize sample return missions, and could even ruin our chance of detecting life elsewhere in the solar system.

Biosecurity on a planetary scale

The article describes a possible approach to address this alarming scenario: the emerging field of invasion science, in which practitioners study the causes and consequences of the introduction of organisms beyond their evolved ranges.

“Research in invasion science has produced novel insights for epidemiology, rapid evolution, the relationship between biodiversity and community stability, and the dynamics of predator-prey and parasite-host interactions, among many others. concepts, ”say Ricciardi and his colleagues.

“The protocols for early detection, hazard assessment, rapid response and containment procedures currently in use for invasive species on Earth could be adapted to deal with potential extraterrestrial contaminants,” they detail.

The authors highlight a number of insights from invasion science that could be applied to spatial biosecurity issues, such as the fact that island systems such as islands, lakes and remote habitats are the most vulnerable to invasion threats.

In the same way, invasion biology has provided insights into the difficulty of invasion prediction and the crucial importance of early detection in managing microbial threats. Ricciardi and his colleagues suggest that portable real-time DNA sequencing technologies, along with databases of known organic pollutants, could enable rapid responses.

Despite its value for space biosecurity, the authors state that invasion biologists have yet to participate in the Space Research Committee’s planning.. This should change soon, they argue, because “increased collaboration between invasion biologists and astrobiologists would improve existing international protocols for planetary biosecurity, both for Earth and for extraterrestrial bodies that could contain life.”

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