Efforts afoot to combat invasive species

GOVERNMENT and several stakeholders are putting in place concerted efforts to fight invasive species that cause harm to the environment, economy, and human health.

Initiatives to address the species include the on-going pest control and management initiatives using ‘Prevention, Eradication and Containment’.

The government, through the Vice-President’s Office coordinated the development of a National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan (2019-2029).

Speaking at a Biodiversity Conservation Breakfast debate on Wednesday, the Natural Resources Management (NRM) Policy Manager – USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili, Mr Joseph Olila, said the strategies are meant to prevent introduction and spread of new invasive species.

At the debate organised by Journalist Association of Tanzania (JET) under sponsorship of USAID Tuhifadhi Maliasili Activity, Mr Olila said other objectives are to reduce the negative impacts of existing priority invasive species, enhance national capacity to manage and research on invasive species, and mainstream invasive species management into regulatory tool.

He described the invasive species as non-native plants, animals, or other organisms that have been introduced to an ecosystem and become established, causing harm to the environment, economy or human health.

At the debate themed ‘The Role of Conservation Stakeholders and the Government in Combating Human-Wildlife Conflict in Tanzania’, the expert enumerated several environmental challenges caused by the unwanted species.

Some of them are loss of biodiversity, as invasive species can displace native species, leading to a loss of biodiversity.

“This can have a cascading effect on the ecosystem, as each species plays a role in the food chain and the overall balance of the system. Invasive species can alter habitats, making them less suitable for native species.

“This can lead to the loss of important nesting, feeding, and breeding sites. They can spread diseases to native plants and animals, and can damage infrastructure, such as dams and levees,” he said.

As for social challenges, Mr Olila revealed that the species can disrupt traditional cultures and livelihoods, pose a threat to human health by spreading diseases or causing allergic reactions as well as damage property, such as crops and livestock.

Economically, the non-native organism can cost businesses and governments millions of dollars in control and management costs, may reduce agricultural productivity, leading to higher food prices.

“They can damage tourism industries, as people are less likely to visit areas where invasive species are present. They may result into increased healthcare costs at household on national levels.

Invasive species can damage infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and power lines. This can lead to costly repairs and disruptions to services,” Mr Olila said.

The expert cited priority invasive species as prosopis juliflora, also known as mesquite, being a tree that was introduced to Tanzania in the 1950s for erosion control.

It has since become invasive, spreading rapidly and displacing native vegetation.

He introduced another as lantana camara, which is a shrub that was introduced to Tanzania as an ornamental plant.

It has since become invasive, forming dense thickets that crowd out native plants and make it difficult to walk through.

Water hyacinth is yet another, being in the water and transport sectors; an aquatic plant that was introduced to Tanzania in the 1960s.

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