Biosecurity surveillance of e-commerce and other online platforms for illegal trade in plants


Within Australia, 1783 alien plants have established populations and 350 of these became naturalised between 1980 and 2010. Future invasions are anticipated through emerging illegal trade (facilitated by e-commerce marketplaces) in invasive plant species.

The trading of high-risk invasive species and declared pests via e-commerce platforms is recognised as a significant pathway for the introduction of organisms into new areas, which, in-turn can create major biosecurity risks to human health, food security, agricultural health, and biodiversity loss throughout the world.

A range of innovative solutions are required to effectively manage the biosecurity risks of the e-commerce marketplace in invasive species and this project will develop software and analytical approaches to address this priority, and greatly support the data-collection, surveillance activities, and compliance, as well as the reputation of biosecurity agencies charged with preventing new alien plant incursions.

This project will share the methodological and ultimately end-user platforms pursued by a sister CISS supported project: Understanding and intervening in illegal trade in non-native species.

The long-term benefits of this project will ensure that effective interventions are in place nationally for monitoring key international and domestic online sources of illegal plants and e-commerce trade pathways.




  • Acquire baseline data on the quantity and diversity of illegal plants sold online within Australia (e.g.,,
  • Generate a minimum set of standards to assist in the continued use of stable webscraping.
  • Develop and deliver a user-friendly interface for data handling and visualisation by Australian states and territories.

Project Leader

Associate Professor Phill Cassey
Project Team
  • A/Prof Phill Cassey
  • Jacob Maher
  • Ms Stephanie Moncayo
  • Dr Lewis Mitchell
  • Dr Russel Brewer
  • A/Prof Jose Facelli
  • Lisa Wood (Hon Student)
Project Partners
  • University of Adelaide

The project receives funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment


February 2021 update:

The complete list of declared plants in Australia contains 1141 unique species and 44 whole genera. This list is separated by jurisdictions (states and territories), along with regional status where applicable. Any associated legal conditions, the common and trade names, and the higher taxonomy have also been recorded.

Twelve sites were monitored, resulting in over 20,000 listings which have matched with our search terms, approximately 10% of these have been cleaned. Of those listings cleaned, 432 detections have been made with 100 different declared species detected.


Brooks, S. Erbacher, K. & Maher, J. (2022) Progress towards the eradication of Limnocharis flava from Australia. Proceedings of the 22nd Australia Weeds Conference, Adelaide – Page 262

Maher J, Stringham OC, Moncayo S, Wood L, Lassaline CR, Virtue J, Cassey P (2023) Weed wide web: characterising illegal online trade of invasive plants in Australia. NeoBiota 87: 45-72.

Understanding and Intervening in Illegal Trade in Non-Native Species Project: Final Report

Scientific Publications:

  • Stringham OC, Moncayo S, Thomas E, Heinrich S, Toomes A, Maher J and Cassey P (2021) ‘Dataset of seized wildlife and their intended uses’, EcoEvoRvix,
  • Stringham OC, Toomes A, Kanishka AM, Mitchell L, Heinrich S, Ross JV and Cassey P (2021) ‘A guide to using the Internet to monitor and quantify the wildlife trade’, Conservation Biology, accepted author manuscript,