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Impact of invasive alien plants on water provision in selected catchments

I.R. Preston, D.C. Le Maitre, J.N. Blignaut, L Louw, C.G. Palmer


We analyse the impact of failing to control invasive alien plants (IAPs) on the water supply to the Berg River and De Hoop Dams, in other words, the opportunity cost of not clearing IAPs in these two catchments. To do this we used models to assess and compare the impact of current and future invasions on inflows into the dams. Although the clearing of current invasions would only provide a modest increase in the amount of water compared to, for example, the construction of another dam,  failure to clear the invasion will have a negative impact on water security in the long term. We estimated that the Berg River Dam could lose up to 51% of its mean annual inflows to IAPs over a 45-year period, and the De Hoop Dam catchment could lose up to 44%. These impacts would continue to increase over time, and the costs of control could become very high as the plants invade rugged terrain. Major infrastructural development requires Ministerial approval, supported by advice from senior officials. We suggest that such advice should substantively take sufficient account of the benefits of clearing existing invasions, or at least of preventing further invasions. Our results suggest that serious consequences arise from insufficient investment in catchment management. An integrated approach to the management of the supply of and demand for water, that ensures long-term sustainability, is essential in informed decision-making and the early control of IAPs is a key component of that approach.

Keywords: invasive alien species, water supply, catchment management, long-term water security, investment in restoration of natural capital, economic impact of control
AJOL African Journals Online