Better management of invasive plants needed

Community-based Conservation Centre (CCC), Male Mahadeshwara Hills (MM Hills) and Karnataka Forest Department, Kollegal division organised a workshop on ‘Alien Invasive Plants’ on December 8-9, 2010 with the aim to identify and map the spread of alien invasive plant species in MM Hills and adjacent areas. The workshop also intended to train the foresters on monitoring the spread of invasive plant. The workshop was attended by three foresters and 12 forest guards from three ranges namely MM Hills, Yediyarahalli, and Cowdalli.

The workshop kicked off with the inaugural talk by Dr Siddappa Setty, Fellow at ATREE. Emphasising the significance of biodiversity, he stressed on the substantial impact caused by alien invasive plants on biodiversity and ecosystem services. He spoke about major invasive plants in India such as Lantana camara, Eupatorium, and Parthenium hysterophorous. Briefly explaining the history of these species in the Indian subcontinent, Dr Siddappa also shared his field experience on invasion of Lantana camara in Biligiri Rangaswamy Wildlife Sanctuary (BRT), where he had studied the spread of lantana in 1997. Combining his observations with those of a Ph D sudent, Bharath Sundaram, in 2007, ATREE found that lantana spread has accelerated over the ten year period by 50 to 60 per cent in BRT. Participants observed that lantana spread in their forest areas was also proceeding along similar lines.

Later during the session the participants were asked to list out major reasons for lantana proliferation in their forest areas. They noted that birds dispersal of seeds, tree cover loss and soil condition were some of the major reasons for lantana spread. Edwin, a senior forester at MM Hills range, expressed his concern that forest department had imbibed lantana removal programme annually but in vain. Hence, he was keen to know other alternative lantana control methods or management practices. In response to this query Siddappa cited example of an experiment conducted in Kerala where the forest department planted bamboo saplings in the midst of lantana infested areas and after sometime bamboo plants grew faster and created shade that curtailed the growth of lantana.

Outcome:

The foresters agreed on three major issues that require immediate attention towards effective lantana control method or management practice:

  1. The time of lantana removal needs to be before flowering
  2. Lantana removal from a spot will continue for three consecutive years
  3. Fast growing species such as bamboo would be planted in areas cleared of lantana choose

Mapping exercise

As part of the workshop the participants were requested to list and map the major invasive species found in the above three ranges. They listed Lantana camara, Eupatorium, Parthenium hystrophorous, and Prosopis juliflora as the major alien invasive plants in those ranges. They were given topo sheets of all the three forest ranges and were asked to map the spread of these four alien invasive plants in their forest areas. Data from these marked topo sheets will be converted into shape files and will be superimposed on GIS map of these areas. This will help to generate maps that indicate the invasion of the major alien invasive plants in MM Hills, Yediyarahalli, and Cowdalli. The MM hills team is planning to conduct a similar exercise with other forest ranges in Kollegal.

Field visit

Later, participants were introduced to the CCC’s flagship programme -- Lantana Craft Centre (LCC) with a visit to the LCC at Hannehole.

Remarks

Foresters found this workshop exceptionally useful and they agreed to alert the Range Forest Officer (RFO) and forest department headquarters at Kollegal in case of detection of spread of invasive species in their forest areas. They also expressed the need to obtain a camera while patrolling inside the forest to document incidents, animal sightings, detection of new species etc. The MM Hills team distributed field note to each participant to monitor and record animal movements, sightings of rare animals, plants or invasive plants. The team plans to collect these details from participants every three months in order to tailor future training programmes and monitoring practices.