Cape Town - Invasive species are the third-largest threat to South Africa’s biodiversity after cultivation and land degradation, according to a report released by Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy in Cape Town on Friday.
The report, titled, Status of Biological Invasions and their management in South Africa in 2019, estimates the ecological costs of invasive alien plants and animals to be more than R6.5 billion each year.
The report said the main costs associated with losses are a decline in ecosystem services such as water and grazing, and in agriculture as a result of invasive pests.
Creecy said: "Biodiversity loss is closely linked to the collapse of ecosystem services such as the provision of fresh water and grazing.
“Current estimates show that if biological invasions on grazing land were not controlled, the country could lose up to 70% of this valuable natural asset and this will reduce the capacity of natural range lands to support livestock production, thereby threatening rural livelihoods and food production.”
During the launch Creecy announced that South Africa, through financial support from a global environmental facility, had secured funds for a project to enhance the efficient management of high-risk biological invasions.
According to the report the number of alien species that have established themselves in South Africa has increased by 15% from 1 637 to 1 880, about a third of which are invasive.
Formal assessments of the impact of invasive species are under way using a new UN scheme that was developed in collaboration with the SA National Biodiversity Institute and scientists at the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology.
The provincial government last week published the Western Cape Biodiversity Bill for public comment.
Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said: “This powerful legal tool will enable the conservation and sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity. The Western Cape Biodiversity Bill will directly support our commitment to the Edinburgh Declaration.”
Bredell joined CapeNature chief executive Razeena Omar to sign the Edinburgh Declaration, which signifies and further strengthens national governments’ collective commitment towards implementing the biodiversity conservation goals and targets of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Draft Biodiversity Bill can be accessed at: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/eadp/files/atoms/files/Western%20Cape%20Biodoversity%20Bill%202021.pdf
Meanwhile, the City’s invasive species unit is currently removing Madeira Vine and American Bramble from the Kirstenhof Wetland.
Mayco member for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt said: “Both these species are listed as invasive alien species in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act.