Ecology and impacts of the invasive species, Lantana camara, in a social-ecological system in South India: Perspectives from local knowledge
We explored how the forest-dwelling Soliga community of South India views and explains biological invasions, and how local knowledge can inform scientific knowledge on biological invasions. We used an interview schedule with open-ended questions to solicit Soliga opinion on Lantana camara (lantana) invasion. The Soliga cited three reasons for lantana spread: its prolific fruit output and wide seed dispersal, change in fire management, and historical extraction of grass and bamboo. The Soliga believe that lantana invasion has had negative effects on the ecosystem and their livelihoods. Tabling scientific knowledge with local knowledge has improved our understanding of lantana invasion. The role of existing lantana in colonizing neighboring areas, and the response of native tree communities to lantana were common to both local and scientific sources. However, the Soliga view provides a more nuanced perspective of the lantana-fire relationship (contextually based on lantana density) with fires suppressing lantana when lantana density was low. This is contrary to views held by foresters and biologists, that fires are uniformly detrimental and promote lantana. Our study shows that examining Soliga observations has improved understanding of the invasion process and presents avenues for future lantana management.