Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Battle Against Invaders Yields Partnerships

​In many of the most unique and diverse ecosystems around the globe, plants and animals are under tremendous threat from invaders—other plants and animals that are not native. These ecosystem interlopers can upset nature’s delicate balance, destroying food sources for people, plants and animals while choking out indigenous plant life and importing disease. They can also undermine vital resources, for example, by draining all the water out of a stream that keeps fish, and people, alive.

South Africans uproot menace in Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany Hotspot

Take the case of the wattle tree. In the Ongeluksnek Provincial Nature Reserve in the southern Drakensberg Mountains of Eastern Cape, South Africa, tracts of two fast-growing wattle species—silver wattle and black wattle—look innocent enough, sporting pale yellow, fragrant flowers. But in this landscape, wattle spreads like the wildfires it follows in its native Australian bushlands, crowding out Ongeluksnek’s indigenous grasses and riparian plants that are part of the foundation of life in the reserve. Wattle also uses significantly more water than grasses, leading to desiccated soils and reduced stream flows that harm livestock grazing and downstream water users. “More than 20,000 hectares of grasslands in the upper catchment have been invaded by wattle over the last few decades, compromising the vital watershed function played by these grassland ecosystems,” said Nicky McLeod, manager of CEPF grantee Environmental and Rural Solutions (ERS).

The invaders, however, also present an opportunity to create jobs and build partnerships. ERS is working with surrounding communities, fellow CEPF grantee Conservation South Africa (CSA), other NGOs, and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency to address the wattle invasion. Their goal is to improve the management of the Umzimvubu River system, the tourism potential of the Ongeluksnek reserve, and the livelihoods of the neighboring communities. ERS provided much-needed employment for local residents from 25 households to tackle the wattle and other alien plants, and to serve as rangers.Over the two years of the CEPF grant, the work crews were able to remove 30 percent of alien plant cover in the protected area and establish a management regime to maintain the rescued habitat. The ERS/CSA partnership secured two follow-up grants from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) for clearing 20,000 hectares surrounding the reserve, creating 230 jobs. CEPF is now funding ERS to consolidate and extend its efforts via the Umzimvubu Catchment Partnership Program, a multi-stakeholder partnership spearheaded by ERS and CSA.

Native birds make a comeback in the Polynesia-Micronesia Hotspot

The common myna (Acridotheres tristis) is adaptable, aggressive and omnivorous, qualities that make it an unwelcome and widespread import in many parts of the world, including the Cook Islands. A nation made up of 15 small islands in the South Pacific, Cook Islands faces multiple invasive species threats, but the myna—which has been named one of the world’s top 100 worst invasives by the Global Invasive Species Database—has been a particular challenge. 

This black-and-brown bird with yellow skin around the eyes was brought to the island of Atiu in 1916 to control the coconut stick insect, another invasive species and agricultural pest. While its impact on the stick insect remains unclear, the mynas obviously harass nesting native birds, damage fruit on trees and are a nuisance around homes. As part of an effort to secure local biodiversity and establish ecotourism, CEPF grantee Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust started working in May 2009 with the island’s leadership and residents to reduce the myna population, estimated to be at least 6,000 at that time. Atiu resident George Mateariki (photographed at left) led implementation of an eradication program, receiving training and safety equipment for the careful use of a poison targeted at the birds. After the 2013 breeding season, fewer than 300 mynas remained, according to Gerald McCormack of Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust. 
“We are optimistic that the remaining mynas can be eradicated before the next breeding season in September, although both trapping and shooting are increasingly difficult,” McCormack said, noting the mynas are quick learners. With the decline in mynas, the number of stick insects has increased, but remains at an acceptable level, McCormack said. Meanwhile, “without harassment by mynas, the land birds have become remarkably prominent and the community enjoys peace around their homes and fruit ripening on trees,” McCormack said.
Fast Fact
​Results from CEPF’s efforts to address invasive species issues in multiple hotspots: 
  • Efforts to control or eradicate invasive alien species: 72

  • Measures (e.g., biosecurity plans) in place to prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive species: 20

  • Species with improved populations as a result of invasive alien species control and eradication: 75

  • Trainings conducted on biosecurity and invasive species management: 73

  • Efforts (surveys, feasibility plans) undertaken to identify and prioritize invasive alien species and pathways: 20​