A National Strategy for dealing with biological invasions in South Africa

A National Strategy for dealing with biological invasions in South Africa
Brian van Wilgen
Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University

In 2013, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) commissioned the drafting of a National Strategy for biological invasions, following the transfer of the Working for Water programme from Water Affairs to DEA. The strategy was completed in March 2014 by consultants from a wide range of backgrounds, in collaboration with the DEA. Past approaches to managing alien species in South Africa had a focus on established alien plant invasions and on reducing the risk of introducing pathogens and pests of importance to agriculture and human health. This new Strategy has broadened the focus to cover all taxa (plants, vertebrates, invertebrates and microbial organisms in terrestrial and marine environments) and to consider all stages of invasion (introduction, establishment, expansion and dominance). The Strategy promotes the continued combination of all proposed interventions with poverty alleviation through job creation. This basic policy has been the prime reason that the programme has, over the past 20 years, been able to secure substantially more funding than would otherwise have been made available for an environmental project, and to grow. New approaches in the Strategy include (i) scaling up bio-security operations at border posts, (ii) the possible drafting of an Invasive Species Act to consolidate existing, scattered legislation; and (iii) encouraging, or even requiring, additional funding from the private sector where appropriate. The expansion of secondary industries to utilize biomass harvested from alien plant clearing is also seen as important, as it would increase the potential for job creation, which will strengthen ongoing political support and funding.