CapeNature removes thirsty invaders from 119 000ha
CapeNature has succeeded in removing invasive alien plants, considered to be the single biggest threat to the biodiversity of the Western Cape from 119 000 hectares of priority conservation land across the province, over its last financial year and said that the organisation has exceeding its own targets (of clearing invasive plants) by almost 30%.
“The organisation has deployed an army of 1000 workers led by 92 competent contractors to remove invasive alien plants. They worked in nature reserves, mountain catchments including river riparian areas, wetlands and marshlands as well as private land with high biodiversity value across the Western Cape, over the last twelve months” says CapeNature Executive Director: Operations, Fanie Bekker.
During clearing operations contractors and their teams cut the invasive alien plants down and apply herbicide to prevent it from growing again. Regular follow up clearing operations reduces infestations and further spread of invader plants, Bekker explained.
“Invasive alien plants compete for growing space with our own indigenous plants, known as fynbos and impacts negatively on the quality of ecosystem services that our biodiversity delivers.”
Most of the aliens consume more water than indigenous plants and are also depleting the valuable underground water resources.
The current reduction in water yield due to alien plants is estimated at 85 million cubic metres per annum and scientific predictions are that this may increase to more than 340 million cubic meters in years to come, if the current rate of infestation levels are not controlled, Bekker said.
Large stands of dense alien plants also provide a high fuel load that can cause exceptionally hot fires. These fires affect the makeup of the soil, damaging its structure and causing high incidence of flooding during the wet winter months.
Invasive alien plants have infested over 10 million hectares of South Africa. The Western Cape is the most heavily invaded province, at around a third of the total national area. Some of the most common invaders in the province include Pines, Hakeas and Black Wattle.
Bekker confirmed that an estimated 60% of the Western Cape’s water catchment’s is covered by invasive alien vegetation – consuming up to 50% of the region’s river run-off which supply water to our major storage dams.
By removing invasive alien plants that use up valuable water, compete with indigenous plants and damage the soil, CapeNature aims to ensure that there will be enough water for everyone and that land will become productive again. At the same time we are also creating business and job opportunities by removing alien invasives and facilitating the usage of cleared plants for furniture making.
A BIOSPHERE RESERVE is a specific type of conservation area which accommodates and benefits both the natural environment and the communities living in and around it.
CAPTION TO PHOTOGRAPH: Kogelberg Biosphere, a UNESCO recognised biosphere reserve, close to Betty’s Bay is hailed as the finest example of mountain fynbos in the Western Cape with 0,1% alien infestation due to repeated clearing efforts from CapeNature.