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Volunteering to remove invasive plants

13 July 2021

Impacts of volunteers on invasive plants

As a volunteer, it can sometimes be very disheartening to work clearing alien invasive plants, because they pop back up so quickly and the task seems so much bigger than you are. But, in a recently published study by Nolwethu Jubase, we show that not only do volunteers make a significant impact on the problem, but they get a lot more from it than just cutting down aliens. 

Being faced with a never ending barrage of invasive plants might seem enough to get your spirits down and give up. But in the Western Cape, volunteer groups are strong and derive great satisfaction from ridding the area of invasive species. Nolwethu estimated that their work amounts to nearly 5 300 ha of land cleared of aliens per year with labour costs equivalent to ZAR 5.1 million! This is a significant input into the fight against invasive plants, but the groups could do with better support. Currently, volunteers put their own monies into work needed at the sites, but need training for many of the aspects of removal and use of herbicides.

Of the many problems that the groups face, support from authorities seems particularly lacking. There is a great need for coordinating the groups so that their activities fit into the bigger picture. This role needs to be taken on by a national authority, such as SANBI. Particular problems faced by the groups included the movement of governmental organised alien clearing. Sometimes land cleared by volunteers is then cleared by government workers the next week. 

On the up side, volunteers get a lot out of their time spent removing invasive woody aliens from the fynbos of the Western Cape. They learn and get inspiration from others in the group and receive feelings of satisfaction, happiness and a sense of achievement. 

Read more about the study:

Jubase, N., Shackleton, R.T., Measey, J. (2021) Motivations and contributions of volunteer groups in the management of invasive alien plants in South Africa’s Western Cape province. Bothalia - African Biodiversity & Conservation 51(2), a3. pdf


Invaded - Klein Swartberg

01 July 2021

10 years of monitoring the Rough Moss Frog

It was 2011 when I first visited the Klein Swartberg, near Caledon, to carry out aSCR recordings to measure density of calling male Rough Moss frogs, Arthroleptella rugosa, with Andrew Turner from CapeNature. Some of you will remember the visit of Debra Stark in 2015. Debra also conducted recordings of Rough Moss frogs on the mountain (see here).

Since then, the mountain burned and recovered, and we have been back most years to measure density of the frogs. In 2013, the mountain looked the best I've ever seen it. The fire that went through in February 2012 had taken out most of the large pines, and the seepage where the frogs call was free of invaders (see top image below). 

Last week we were back with Oliver Angus (lower image) who is looking at the aSCR data from all years for his Honours project in the MeaseyLab. That same seep was not only invaded by pines, Pinus pinaster, but the frogs were no longer calling from what had been a stronghold for them. 

Happily, they are still calling at other sites on the mountain. 

In this image you see a male Rough Moss Frog that was ~20 mm long (SVL). For their small size they make quite a good noise that we can use to measure their population size.

Stay tuned for more news on this project...

  aSCR  Frogs  Lab
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