Thirsty alien invaders targeted for eradication

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has said that South Africa’s drought-stricken freshwater resources are also being sapped by invasive alien plant species.

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It is, therefore, of critical importance that eradication programmes for these alien invaders be stepped up as part of a wider strategy to help reduce unnecessary water losses.

In a statement coinciding with World Wetlands Day on 2 February, the EWT said clearing alien invasive plants from around wetlands is of particular importance because these bodies are a primary source of freshwater.

The main supply of renewable freshwater for human use comes from an array of inland wetlands, which also provide breeding and feeding habitats for birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, said EWT spokesperson Carla van Rooyen.

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Alien invasive plant species, such as black wattle and eucalyptus trees, take up huge amounts of water which would otherwise have flowed into the wetlands.

Ursula Franke, senior field officer with the EWT’s African Crane Conservation Programme, reported a visible increase in water quantities in wetlands where alien species had been cleared in comparison to wetlands where these plants still proliferated.

The EWT said that, in partnership with the department of environmental affairs, it was launching an invasive alien plant clearing project in Mpumalanga’s strategically important wetland system, the Chrissiesmeer Protected Environment.