ALERT’s programme dedicated to conserving biodiversity in the Victoria Falls area includes a very important alien species removal project. Over the past year, we have been working to eradicate the invasive species Lantana camara from the Masuwe Concession, adjacent to Zambezi National Park.
Lantana, ‘the wicked weed’, is a major issue in many regions of the Palaeotropics where it invades natural and agricultural ecosystems. The plants can grow individually, in clumps, or as dense thickets, crowding out indigenous species. It can become the dominant under-storey species, disrupting succession and decreasing biodiversity. Its allelopathic qualities (chemical inhibition of one species by another) can reduce vigour of plant species nearby, and at some sites Lantana infestations have been so persistent that they have completely stalled the regeneration of some rainforests for decades. Lantana can also greatly alter fire regimes in natural systems. Lantana has many secondary impacts, especially in tropical countries, where it can harbour several serious pests such as malarial mosquitoes and tsetse flies, causing health problems.
After a sweep of the Concession that was undertaken earlier in the month, three separate clusters of Lantana camara were located, and a plan devised to remove the plants.
To celebrate Earth Day on the 22nd of April, project volunteers and staff removed over 50 plants of varying sizes.