Ensuring the survival of regional biodiversity is vital to the socio-economic and environmental survival of the Southern Cape

“Dealing with the presence and uncontrolled spread of invasive alien plants (IAP) in Southern Cape catchments, rivers and on the landscape on any level is an expensive and complex matter, meaning that it is almost impossible to address in its entirety, versus a complicated issue which can be resolved once you succeed to isolate the root causes of the problem and present solutions and allocate resources to the matter at hand,” says Cobus Meiring of the Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF).

Landowners refusing to clear their land of invasive alien plants put regional biodiversity and water security at risk.

“The presence of IAPs on the Southern Cape is highly visible as thousands of hectares of land is invaded by any number of invasive species, including Madeira Vine, Lantana, Pine, Rooikrans, Black Wattle and Port Jackson to name but a few.”

“What perhaps is not always so visible is the full impact and destruction brought about by invasive alien plants, as critically endangered biodiversity disappears in perpetuity from the paradise which is the Garden Route, water run-off becomes reduced to a trickle, fire risk increases exponentially and river systems are choked beyond recognition from their natural state, affecting the health of estuaries, and the marine and terrestrial life they sustain.”

According to Meiring, the Southern Cape is facing many issues posing a clear and present danger to the environment. These include large-scale development and demand for resources like water supply from mountain catchments.

“We have to cherish our biodiversity for a great many reasons, including climate change-driven reasons that have negative impacts on the landscape, including flood damage due to changing rainfall patterns and drought.”

“On a positive note, and perhaps also as a result of immensely serious fire risk posed by IAPs and because of increasingly stringent enforcement of legislation by local and regional authorities, Southern Cape landowners are increasingly taking responsibility for clearing their land, and almost everywhere there are visible examples of private landowners taking on invasive plants on their land.”

Says Meiring: “Keeping the naturally beautiful image of the Garden Route alive is one of the most important reasons why residents and landowners should do everything in their power to preserve what is left of one of the most beautiful regions in the country and African continent. A landscape free of invasive alien plants contributes to securing a high standard of living for all and a place tourists from around the globe would like to come and see for themselves, and contribute to the prosperity of the regional economy.”

The Garden Route Environmental Forum (GREF) is a public platform for environmental management, academic institutions and conservation entities in the Southern Cape, and a think tank on climate change and related topics.

Picture: Forest

Photo credit: Coenraad Swart

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