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New guide on how best to get rid of invasive alien plants

WWF and its partners have published a new guide on how to manage invasive alien plants to help landowners deal with a tricky problem.

Landowners are required by law to take the necessary steps to control and eradicate invasive alien plants, but this is often more easily said than done – which is one of the reasons why WWF and its partners have published a new guide on the subject.

Available for free download in English and Afrikaans, A practical guide to managing invasive alien plants: A concise handbook for land users in the Cape Floral Region, will be of value to landowners, land managers and clearing contractors, providing context, examples, and practical guidelines.

The Cape Floral Region is a renowned biodiversity hotspot and the world’s smallest plant kingdom with the highest species variety. Yet, large parts of this special landscape are heavily infested with fast-spreading and thirsty exotic plants and trees.

Most species of invasive alien plants found in South Africa come from Australia and South America. Without their naturally occurring pests, whether insects, fungi, or diseases, they grow undeterred and multiply rapidly.

The Madeira vine from South America, for example, smothers indigenous trees like the protected milkwoods while Port Jackson, pine, wattle, and gum trees use far more water than indigenous vegetation. These ‘alien’ species also crowd out local species and compete for water and nutrients. And, as we’ve witnessed with the Cape Town fires recently, some cause wildfires to burn more intensely and spread more easily, putting people and property at risk.

Critically, though, the mountainous regions of the Cape Floral Kingdom are also important water-supplying areas generating fresh water for millions of urban dwellers, food-producing farms and other industries and communities.

Ruth Beukman, Freshwater and Policy Lead with WWF South Africa, comments: ‘‘With the invasion of water-intensive exotic plants being one of the top threats to the health of our critical water source areas and thus our water security, it is imperative that we all play a part in managing this threat. To this end, it is important that we work in partnership to enable and empower land users, landowners, local communities, and private companies to take ownership of, and action in, addressing this risk to the health of their land, the ecosystems, water supply, their property, and livelihoods.”
 
The guide was a collaborative effort, put together with the help of subject experts in government, the City of Cape Town, private businesses, and other NGOs. It is a practical nine-chapter manual with colour-coded sections for easy reference. The numerous authors are experts in the field and have many years of combined experience in dealing with alien plants within their respective professions.

The information is based on the latest policies and legal requirements and consists of guiding principles of best practice methods to empower land users to develop a management plan to control these landscape-damaging alien plants. It also includes a section on how to successfully rehabilitate land that has been cleared.

Another WWF practical guide, produced in 2019, covers the basics for establishing a community-run indigenous nursery for those who wish to propagate and grow their own indigenous Cape species to be planted back along riverbanks and reintroduced into landscapes.
A participant in the 2019 Journey of Water in the Riviersonderend catchment celebrates removing an invasive alien tree during a clearing exercise.

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