Wildlife & Biodiversity

In a first, researchers create framework to eradicate invasive weeds

Invasive species threaten our biodiversity. With this framework, scientists hope to ensure benefits for both environment and rural communities

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 28 February 2020
Invasive weeds. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Researchers at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, have created the world’s first framework to guide the management of terrestrial invasive species, according to a paper published in Ecosystem Services.

Invasive alien plant species (IAPS) threaten our biodiversity and ecosystem services. With this framework, scientists hope to ensure benefits for both environment and rural communities.

According to the research, invasive species deal a blow to South Africa's economy from damage from fire, loss of viable land and drinking water. These invasive weeds also threaten our biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Researchers arrived at the framework using big data approach and combining information from the South African National Census of 2011, with the South African Plant Invaders Atlas.

Research article published at Wits University website quoted Dr Chevonne Reynolds, lead author of the paper, as saying:

South Africa spends 1.5 billion rands per year on controlling invasive species and while the country is really at the forefront alien species control in the world, we still have a wicked problem.

According to him, invasive control activities can be targeted by prioritising localities that are most impacted — typically the poorest municipalities.

Invasive species have positive and negative impacts on the environment. The team, however, weighed the impacts against a variety of invasive species establish their overall impact on the livelihoods of South Africans.

The team combined data on household incomes and their use of natural resource for all municipalities in the country. Distribution data of 57 invasive weeds helped establish the communities which were the most affected.

For example, while people consumed fruit of the prickly pear cactus supplement their diet, it made pastures unsuitable for livestock. It also consumed a lot of water and other resources for its growth. So overall, it had a negative impact on the affected community.

“We found that poorer rural communities were the most impacted by invasive species, as these people make most use of natural resources on a day-to-day basis,” said Reynolds.

“We have created a framework for government to direct efforts to eradicate invasive species, by focusing on municipalities where communities and environment are at risk,” he added

According to him, other countries facing a similar problem could take up their model that combined big data with citizen science.

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