Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas (SAPIA) phase II update.

Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas (SAPIA) phase II update.
Lesley Henderson
ARC-PPRI, Private Bag X134, Queenswood 0121, Pretoria

The SAPIA database and atlassing project catalogues localities, abundances and habitats of alien plant species growing outside of cultivation. SAPIA phase II launched in 2005 aims to continue Henderson roadside surveys and to encourage public participation. Particular emphasis is on emerging weeds and those proposed for legislation. SAPIA II will provide support for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)’s Early Detection and Rapid Response of Emerging Invasive Alien Species project (EDRR).

In the past year 2 400 records were added to the SAPIA database, with 1 800 records from roadside surveys  conducted by  Lesley  Henderson and  600  records  from  other  SAPIA  participants— 200 records from EDRR and 400 from another 17 contributors. Eighteen species were added to the SAPIA database, of which 14 were new or emerging species. To date the SAPIA database contains 78 000 records, in c. 1 500 quarter degreee squares (= 15 minute squares), c. 720 species, spanning 34 years. Since October 2006 a total of 28 SAPIA Newsletters have been e-mailed on a quarterly basis to more than 500 recipients.

Emerging species recorded during the past year include: common bee-brush (Aloysia gratissima) (Verbenaceae), onion weed (Asphodelus fistulosus) (Asphodelaceae), glory flower (Clerodendrum bungei) (Verbenaceae), midnight lady (Harrisia pomanensis) (Cactaceae), prickly Australian pest pear (Opuntia stricta var. dillenii) (Cactaceae) and rabbit-foot fern (Phlebodium aureum) (Polypodiaceae). Plants of great concern are the ‘strangler invaders’ such as Queensland umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) and pitch apple (Clusia rosea). These species germinate on palms and in the forks of trees and grow as epiphytes, sending down aerial roots that will eventually smother the host tree.

The prevention of new invasions is being severely hampered by a lack of effective legislation and law enforcement. Investigations into the potential invasiveness of so-called sterile cultivars of declared invasive species is urgently needed.