CABI has shared its expertise in the sustainable management of invasive non-native plants as part of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) which was seen as the “last chance” to reverse the destruction of the natural world.
Nearly 200 countries came together during the high-level talks in Montreal, Canada, with the aim of agreeing to reduce the threatened extinction of more than one million species and to protect 30% of land and sea.
The agreement also hopes to eliminate billions of dollars of environmentally-damaging government subsidies and see the restoration of degraded ecosystems.
CABI’s attendance comes after it also took part in the COP27 climate summit in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, where its commitment to helping millions of smallholder farmers around the world adapt to the impacts of climate change was highlighted.
Dr Hariet Hinz, CABI’s Global Director, Invasives, and Dr Ana Isabel Gonzalez Martinez a consultant on Invasive Alien Species at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), jointly organized a side event at COP15 in Montreal, Canada, which focused on Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) for the sustainable control of invasive non-native plants such as Prosopis julifora.
Dr Hinz gave a welcome and introduction, before speaking and showing a video about the management of Prosopis julifora through the Woody Weeds Project.
The side event also included presentations from Dr Michael Wironen, Director of Corporate Engagement for Food & Water, The Nature Conservancy, Dr Dickson Kaelo, CEO of the Kenyan Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA), Mr Mwayi Mkanthama, Environmental Officer in the Environmental Affairs Department in Malawi and Mr Rodwell Chandipo, Principle Environmental Inspector, at the Zambia Environmental Management Agency.
Prosopis julifora, together with climate change and land degradation, are major threats to people’s livelihoods in arid and semi-arid areas with each of these having negative impacts on ecosystem services – including vegetation biomass, which is a prime resource for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists.
CABI in 2021 helped launch the Swiss-Kenyan Woody Weeds + project to support a National Prosopis Strategy for Kenya which is aimed at the sustainable management of Prosopis julifora and builds upon the previous Woody Weeds project.
CABI also, in 2020, contributed to research published in the journal Scientific Reports prior to the launch of Wood Weeds +. This showed that, in contrast to encroachment by Prosopis julifora, the restoration of grasslands in tropical semi-arid regions was shown to both mitigate the impacts of climate change and restore key benefits usually provided by healthy grasslands.
Dr Hinz said, “Considering that invasive non-native plants do not only have impacts on ecosystem services, but also have a large socio-economic component – especially the so called ‘conflict species- we believe that ILM is the best approach to tackle plant invasions. It is necessary to get all stakeholders in a landscape on board to decide on spatially explicit management plans, reducing trade-offs and increasing synergies.”
As part of the side event, Dr Wironen spoke about The Nature Conservancy’s Foodscapes programme which maps the diversity of food production around the world to inform the transformation of how we produce food. He particularly focussed on their ‘Central Highlands Ecoregion Foodscape (CHEF)’ in Kenya, where there is potential to collaborate with CABI’s Woody Weeds + project, and our expertise in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) including nature-based solutions and the reduction of pesticide use.
Another highlight of the side event was the presentation by Dr Kaelo on the important role of conservancies for sustainable land management practices in Kenya. Currently, more than 200 conservancies exist, covering 13% of Kenya’s landmass or 7.3 million hectares. He showed that a mixed livestock-wildlife grazing system appears to increase biodiversity compared to either system alone.
Meanwhile Mr Mkanthama’s talk concentrated on ‘conflict species’ such as Prosopis and pines and he emphasized the importance cost-benefit analysis to obtain quantitative data for stakeholders to base their decision on whether to control such species or not.
Finally, Mr Chandipo highlighted successes and also challenges associated with using biological control agents for the management of invasive non-native plants. He mentioned Salvinia (Kariba weed) biological control as a promising project on the Lukanga swamp, in the Kafue River system. This follows lessons from an earlier release of biocontrol agents on a private farm which resulted in 100% control.
This is in contrast to mechanical and chemical control of, for example, Mimosa pigra (also known as the giant sensitive plant) and Lantana camara, which is not sustainable in the long run.
Main image: A man clears Prosopis juliflora in Baringo County, Kenya (Credit: CABI).
Other relevant stories
See also the stories ‘Scientists suggest global guidelines for sustainable use of non-native trees to protect worldwide biodiversity,’ ‘Management of woody weeds in Baringo County, Kenya, may yield significant livelihood benefits’ and ‘Restoration of degraded grassland can benefit climate change mitigation and key ecosystem services.’
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