“Usually I’m looking up at the stars but with this project, I’m back down to earth” quips Dr Rene Breton, Director of Research at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester. By combining the skills of a geographer, ecologist, social scientist, entomologist, astrophysicist, biologist, and electrical engineer, the joint CABI and University of Manchester team aim to capitalise on the unique skills from each subject to tackle the highly invasive weed Parthenium in Pakistan using remote sensing.
CABI has published one of the most complete and current datasets on Invasive Alien Plants (IAP) in East and Southern Africa. This extraordinary dataset is already being translated into new research findings and conservation action on the ground.
A biotype of the cochineal, Dactylopius opuntiae, feeds solely on Opuntia stricta
Depending on which side of the fence you sit, cacti, in all its various forms, are either loved or loathed as ornamental delights or prickly pests that can devastate ecosystems, wildlife, and livelihoods.
The issue was in the spotlight recently when an article published on the BBC News Science & Environment website ‘Prickly cactus species ‘under threat’ brought the issue of the cacti’s plight in sharp focus.
Invasive alien species should not be used in restoring degraded landscapes as their costs outweigh their benefits, experts say.
Invasive alien species, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity, are plants, animals and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and may adversely affect human health and the environment, including decline or elimination of native species.
By Giuseppe Mazza and Elena Tricarico, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy
Mosquitoes are often the first species we think of when it comes to human health
Invasive species are becoming a popular topic in newspapers: when articles appear, they mainly report the damages invasive species can cause to our ecosystems (e.g. reduction or disappearance of native species as well as habitat modification) or to our economic activities: fishing or boating can be halted by mats of the South American water hyacinth, several insects can affect our agricultural production or new diseases can be transmitted to reared species. However, these species can also heavily affect human health and wellbeing.
Invasive alien plants contribute to land degradation by forming vast unproductive monocultures. These invasions have a negative impact on biodiversity, water resources, crop and pasture production, human and animal health, and as such undermine Africa’s ability to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals. Landscapes degraded as a result of unsustainable land-use practices are also more likely to be invaded by invasive plant species, making any attempts at restoration considerably more difficult. As such it is imperative that invasive species management forms an integral part of any attempt at landscape restoration. By actively removing invasive species, followed by restoration, livelihood outcomes will be enhanced across the continent.