Bizarre weather hurts alien clearing
Unusual weather during the past summer period is now having an affect on invasive alien clearing programmes. Due to strong downpours in November last year, and then again in January 2014 on the Agulhas Plain, alien plants are growing strongly, even in areas recently cleared.
In January, large parts of the Western Cape were hit by stormy weather, which led to severe damage to many farming operations, and the loss of life. The Agulhas Plain was also heavily affected, with some areas on the Plain receiving in excess of 100mm. However, the rainy conditions have been followed by periods of intense heat, which in turn has spurred on the growth of invasive plants.
According to Roger Bailey, Coordinator of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) Alien Clearing Project, the weather is likely to increase the workload for many of the teams operating on the Plain. “The project has to date been focusing on follow-up work – in other words, areas that had been cleared up to a year-and-a-half prior to the launch date. However, much of this follow-up area will need to be tackled again, due to the combination of rain and heat, which has led to their fast growth.”
At the same time, the wet conditions also kept teams out of the veld for an unusually high number of days during summer. Bailey said, “The programme’s contractors regularly had to be saved from the muddy conditions, as they would frequently get stuck in the veld.”
The ABI Alien Clearing Project team and the project partners (including the conservancies and farmer’s associations involved) are currently planning the second year of operations. While follow-up areas will again be prioritised, it was hoped that areas that required initial clearing would also be included. The ABI Alien Clearing Project is clearing alien plants from natural veld, and as such, many areas of high biodiversity value are benefiting from clearing operations.