Invasive species are causing billions of Rands worth of damage to South Africa’s economy each year. Invasive alien plants (IAPs) pose a direct threat not only to biodiversity, but also to water security, the ecological functioning of natural systems and the productive use of land.
They intensify the impact of fires and floods and increase soil erosion. IAPs can divert enormous amounts of water from more productive uses and invasive aquatic plants, such as water hyacinth affect agriculture, fisheries, transport, recreation and water supply. It is estimated that invasive plants cover about 10% of the country.
On 1 October, 2014, the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) – Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) Regulations became law.
The AIS Regulations contain a National List of Invasive Species (559 plants and animals) which need to be regulated and controlled. These include plants (383), mammals (41), birds (24), reptiles (35), amphibians (7), fresh-water fish (15), terrestrial invertebrates (23), fresh-water invertebrates (8), marine invertebrates (16) and microbial species (7).
These species are further divided into four categories – Category 1a (newly emerging invasives requiring immediate control), Category 1b (widespread invasives which must be controlled and ideally removed from properties), Category 2 (species requiring permits) and Category 3 (species which may remain in place but further trading, propagation or planting is prohibited).
The AIS Regulations state that anyone selling their property is required to notify the purchaser in writing of the presence of invasive species on that land. By not notifying the purchaser, the seller could be held liable for future costs associated with the removal or control of these invasive species, or damage caused due to the presence of invasive species such as damage to buildings and infrastructure by fire fuelled by species such as invasive gum and pine trees.
National Invasive Species Week
The inaugural National Invasive Species Week runs from 10-17 October, 2015 hopes to publicize the 559 invasive flora and fauna species that are listed in South Africa. The week aims to highlight the importance of invasive species in relation to our economy, human health, food security, water supply and biodiversity. This event runs concurrently with National WeedBuster Week, which has been an institution in this country for two decades and celebrates the 198 invasive alien plants listed on the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (Act No 43 of 1983) (CARA) which is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
National Invasive Species Week aims to raise awareness and increase public understanding around invasive plants and animals. Everyone can participate by removing invasive plants from their garden or by joining a local community hack group to remove invasives from their neighbourhood.