Case Study by Sean Altern – Consultant: Biodiversity Conservation Services
It is often said that in conservation that, apart from rehabilitation, we cannot make any place better, we can only protect and conserve what is already there. Invasive species pose the greatest risk to biodiversity and natural areas as biodiversity equates to ecosystem health. Accurate, well thought out, user friendly and concise invasive species control plans are a vital tool necessary for ensuring the correct management and control of these harmful species thereby resulting in better protection of our natural areas and real growth for people, planet and business.
Management Authorities of all Protected Areas and of Organs of State (e.g. municipalities) are obliged in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act 10 of 2004) and its Regulations (Alien and Invasive Species Regulations, 2014). Section 76 of the Act requires that all Protected Area Management Authorities and all other, “Organs of State in all spheres of government”, including all municipalities, draw up an, “Invasive Species Monitoring, Control and Eradication Plan for land under their control”. These plans have to cover all listed invasive species in terms of Section 70(1) of this Act.
Why is invasive alien species management so important?
- They reduce valuable water supply. Remember the water crisis in Cape Town?
- They increase fire intensity and threat. Remember the Knysna fires?
- They increase pollen counts and causes severe allergies.
- They cause soil erosion and subsequently muddy rivers.
- They cause economic harm such as reduction of flower yields for sellers. What do these people do when their livelihoods are removed?
- They negatively transform habitats reducing ecosystem services such as plant based medicines. How much of our medication is rooted in natural plant compounds?
- They destroy biodiversity by creating green monoculture deserts where animal and insect life, which require variety, is no longer supported. Ever noticed how certain insects favour certain plants?
- As natural diversity decreases, as a result of alien species increase, the ecological resistance of our environment is reduced and this is a direct threat to human health and wellbeing.
Invasive species control plans are drafted to help prevent further deterioration as a result of species proliferation as well as manage and remove existing NEMBA listed species. These are often drafted for new developments and construction as part of Environmental Management Plans for public and private clients and often include district municipalities, power lines, mines, roadworks, farms, private estates and nature reserves.
Designing a customised solution
NCC Environmental Services routinely compiles and updates Invasive Species Monitoring, Control and Eradication Plans or, “Alien Vegetation Control Programmes”. These are done in accordance with national legislated frameworks and guided by adapted methodologies such as those developed by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), Working for Water (WfW), Water Information Management System (WIMS) and the Management Unit Clearing Programme (MUCP) as developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
NCC is vastly experienced in all spheres of invasive species management, from conducting clearing to GIS mapping, to managing large scale government clearing programmes and simply assessing and planning and uses this combined experience and expertise to develop concise and practical plans.
No site is the same and each of our plans is specifically tailored according to the key word: priority. Priority is used as a guide from the outset of broad scale management unit mapping to mid-scale zoning within units to finally small scale species management. The plans easily explain the what, where, why and how of the necessary alien species management whilst providing guidance into this decision making process.
Following desktop review and analysis of existing plans each site is visited, mapped and assessed in accordance with best practice methodologies such as those developed and utilised by Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). Facets observed include not just the species, age or density but also important costing criterions such as angle of slope and distance from roads and associated areas of concern that would influence prioritisation.
To plan for species management it is absolutely vital to understand the species being dealt with. As such NCC utilises experienced in-house botanical specialists with valid PCO (Pest Control Officer) certification to compile their invasive species control plans. This ensures accurate prioritisation of species according to growth habit and threat level as well as methodologies or herbicides to be used.
All of NCC’s invasive species management plans are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time bound. The purpose of this is to ensure that the plans are able to be practically implemented and are not merely verbose documents that are neither effective nor efficient. NCC understands invasive species management and ensures that plans are user friendly for the contractor out in the field and of high technical standard for the managers planning and monitoring their operations in the office.