The Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) has embarked on a programme to manage the threat posed by alien, invasive species to native biodiversity.
The board has listed 82 invasive plants and is in the process of preparing a participatory management plan to tackle the situation.
Member Secretary, KSBB, K.P. Laladhas said the control strategy would be implemented as a campaign coordinated by panchayat-level Biodiversity Management Committees.
The campaign would enlist the support of students, teachers, and non-governmental organisations.
The list has classified invasive plants into three groups based on the risk factors.
For example, the Nila grass ( Mimosa diplotricha ), classified as a high-risk species, can cause heavy damage to crops such as coconut, rubber, cassava, tea, pineapple, and upland rice. Drought-resistant and tolerant to various soil conditions, it is toxic to livestock and can lead to crop loss and soil degradation.
While the bracken fern (( Pteridium aquilinum ), another high-risk species, is poisonous to livestock and human beings, the sleeper weed ( Lantana camara ), a fire-adapted species, can grow in dense thickets, disrupting the growth of native species in forests.
The Mucuna ( Mucuna bracteata ) is considered a major threat to rubber and other plantation crops. The Chinese Creeper or Mile-a-Minute weed ( Mikania micrantha ) is a fast- growing vine that smothers other plants and even trees.
The Congress Grass ( Parthenium hysterophorus ) inhibits the germination and growth of many plants and induces hay fever, asthma, skin rashes, and eczema in human beings.
Toxic to animals, it can also taint mutton and make dairy milk unpalatable owing to its odour.
The listed methods of control include de-weeding and application of chemical herbicides and bio-control agents.
KSBB Chairman Oommen V. Oommen said efforts were on to enlist manual labour under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to implement the management plan with scientific supervision. “A handout with pictures of invasive species will be prepared to educate the labourers.”List of species
The KSBB is also preparing a list of invasive animals. The five species that have been listed so far include the tilapia, sucker catfish, cane toad, American bullfrog, and Giant African snail.