Invasive plants hurt wildlife, ecosystem

Giraffes cross a road at the Serengeti National park during the migration
Giraffes cross a road at the Serengeti National park during the migration

A new research shows that invasive alien plant species introduced as ornamental plants at tourism facilities are spreading rapidly throughout the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, posing a major threat to plant and animal species. Scientists from the Centre of Agriculture and Bioscience International, Centre for Invasion Biology at the University of Stellenbosch and the Kenya Wildlife Service, writing in the journal Koedoe, identifi ed a number of invasive species in the Masai-Mara National Reserve.

Many of the plants have been intentionally introduced into tourism game parks but are now colonising areas far away from human settlement.

Without urgent interventions, scientists predict the rapid spread of these alien species will convert much of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem into a “green desert”, significantly reducing wildlife numbers and hurting tourism.

Scientists found 212 alien or exotic plant species introduced into gardens in the Masai-Mara National Reserve and adjoining conservancies.

Native grasses and plant species that are essential food for grazing mammals are being displaced by these invaders, threatening one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the natural world — the Great Migration.

Senior invasive species expert at CABI, Dr Arne Witt says, “We need urgent action right now with a series of control programmes implemented to reduce the severity of these threats. Failure to act could see the devastation of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem as we know it.”

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