With the spread of alien invasive species (AIS) a worldwide concern, a Code of Good Practice for managing AIS in the South African forestry industry is of utmost importance, reports Forestry South Africa.

In South Africa, it is claimed that these introduced plant species are causing millions of rands of damage to the economy every year and are the biggest threat to the country’s biodiversity.

The Working for Water (WfW) Programme, a government initiative of the Department of Environmental Affairs, employs upward of 25 000 people each year in an attempt to eradicate and control AIS. The objective of the WfW is to reduce the density of established terrestrial AIS through labour intensive, mechanical and chemical control by 22% a year.

The costs and benefits of AIS control has indicated gains in water yields in several catchments and the reported recovery of insects, specifically dragonflies, as a result of the reduction in density of wattle.

By 2005/2006, the programme had spent R3.2-billion since its inception in 1995. By extrapolation, this figure is likely to be in the region of R6-billion up until 2017. Forestry companies and growers spend an estimated R100-million annually in the control of AIS on their land outside the planted area.

Most commercial forest species in South Africa are listed as AIS within regulations published under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004, (Act No10 of 2004), and as weeds within regulations published under the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (Act No43 of 1983). Under these acts, all landowners are legally responsible for controlling the listed AIS and invasive plants and weeds on their own land.

This Code of Good Practice proposes that plantation forest landowners voluntarily assist in the control of AIS on adjoining property or properties in collaboration with neighbours, non-governmental organisations or specific government organisations such as the WfW Extended Public Works Programme.