Cape Argus

Invasive species a danger to country’s biodiversi­ty

- MWANGI GITHAHU mwangi.githahu@inl.co.za

INVASIVE SPECIES are the third-largest threat to South Africa’s biodiversi­ty after cultivatio­n and land degradatio­n, according to a report released by Forestry, Fisheries and Environmen­tal Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy in Cape Town on Friday.

The report, Status of Biological Invasions and their management in South Africa in 2019, estimates the ecological costs of invasive alien plants and animals to be more than R6.5 billion each year.

The report said the main costs associated with losses are a decline in ecosystem services such as water and grazing, and in agricultur­e as a result of invasive pests.

Creecy said: “Biodiversi­ty loss is closely linked to the collapse of ecosystem services such as the provision of fresh water and grazing.

“Current estimates show that if biological invasions on grazing land were not controlled, the country could lose up to 70% of this valuable natural asset and this will reduce the capacity of natural range lands to support livestock production, thereby threatenin­g rural livelihood­s and food production.”

During the launch, Creecy announced that South Africa, through financial support from a global environmen­tal facility, had secured funds for a project to enhance the efficient management of high-risk biological invasions.

According to the report, the number of alien species that have establishe­d themselves in South Africa has increased by 15% from 1 637 to 1 880 – about a third of which are invasive.

Formal assessment­s of the impact of invasive species are under way using a new UN scheme that was developed in collaborat­ion with the SA National Biodiversi­ty Institute and scientists at the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology. The provincial government last week published the Western Cape Biodiversi­ty Bill for public comment.

Environmen­tal Affairs and Developmen­t Planning MEC Anton Bredell said: “This powerful legal tool will enable the conservati­on and sustainabl­e and equitable use of biodiversi­ty. The Western Cape Biodiversi­ty Bill will directly support our commitment to the Edinburgh Declaratio­n.”

Bredell joined CapeNature chief executive Razeena Omar to sign the Edinburgh Declaratio­n, which signifies and further strengthen­s national government­s’ collective commitment towards implementi­ng the biodiversi­ty conservati­on goals and targets of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Draft Biodiversi­ty Bill can be accessed at: https://www.westerncap­e. gov.za/eadp/files/atoms/files/Western%20Cape%20Biodover­sity%20 Bill%202021.pdf

Meanwhile, the City’s invasive species unit is currently removing Madeira Vine and American Bramble from the Kirstenhof Wetland.

Mayco member for spatial planning and environmen­t Marian Nieuwoudt said: “Both these species are listed as invasive alien species in terms of the National Environmen­tal Management Biodiversi­ty Act.

“The City, as the landowner, is legally obligated to manage and control these listed invasive alien species in order to protect and conserve the unique biodiversi­ty in the area.”

 ?? | Supplied ?? ALIEN vegetation clearance.
| Supplied ALIEN vegetation clearance.

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