Invasive plants making a comeback – we need to act now

Landowners need to wake up to the growing threat of invasive alien plants

In many ways, the recent fires raging through the Garden Route, and specifically Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and Brenton (as well as Still Bay), did the environment a favour, says Cobus Meiring of the Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI).

 

Landowners must not wait until it is too difficult and expensive to address invasive alien regrowth on their properties.

What the fires did is to completely pulverize all growth on the landscape, offering landowners and land managers the chance to comprehensively deal with invasive alien plants. Unfortunately, the inverse also holds true, in the sense that should landowners fail to timeously deal with invasive alien pants, then the situation will be dire.

 

Small Wattle Trees currently growing to areas in the Garden Route.

Left unchecked, invasive alien regrowth might very soon be in an unmanageable situation. Regrowth patterns in the Brenton and Plettenberg Bay area shows that invasive regrowth is visible throughout the burn scar. More importantly, dense regrowth patterns are visible in many places where they have not been present in the past.

The Garden Route Rebuild Initiative (GRRI), Environmental Working Group, has applied for significant funding to address invasive alien plant regrowth, as well as a reduction of fuel loads on the landscape. However, at this stage, there is no guarantee that funding will be allocated by National Government.

Ultimately, landowners are responsible for what grows on their land

In terms of the law, landowners are ultimately responsible for what grows on their land. As much as landowners are aware that they have responsibilities in managing their land, chances are that they may react too late, only to find that the invasive regrowth reached a stage where it becomes extremely difficult and expensive to eradicate and control.

In order to ensure that the problem is not allowed to get out of hand, landowners should monitor regrowth, and address the problem as it appears. At this stage, it is still possible to hand-pull thousands of small wattle trees appearing from the sand. In a month’s time, it may be more difficult to use your hands, when herbicide application becomes the next layer of defence.

Once young wattle trees are reaching higher than knee levels, it quickly progresses to a point where control and eradication become expensive and difficult.

The Southern Cape Landowners Initiative (SCLI), is a public platform for landowners and land managers, who have an interest in the control and eradication of invasive alien plants in the Southern Cape. SCLI is supported by the Table Mountain Fund, a subsidiary of WWF SA.