Alien plant coverage shocks Water Affairs

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 28 July 2010

Invasive alien plants now infest 20-million hectares of South Africa – an area twice as large as previously estimated.

Wattles have taken over more than 1.6-million hectares of South Africa

The shock finding comes from an Agricultural Research Council (ARC) report commissioned by Water Affairs.

“The previous figure was 10 million hectares. We knew this was an under-estimate, but we didn’t think it was this big. It’s come as quite a shock,” the department’s natural resource management programme operations head, Christo Marais, told Sapa.

The ARC had briefed the department on the new estimate at a Working for Water (WfW) implementation meeting earlier this month.

Marais said it had long been obvious there was an under-estimation of the scale of the problem, particularly in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Invasive alien vegetation, including various species of wattle, pine, poplar, weeping willow, gum trees, hakea and prickly pear, among others, pose a serious threat to South Africa’s water supply, as well as the country’s agricultural potential and biodiversity.

If the 20-million hectares of alien invasive vegetation across the country could be condensed into a single area, it would form a dense, impenetrable thicket about twice the size of the Kruger National Park. Continue reading