Lantana in India: A Losing Battle?

Lantana in India: A Losing Battle?

Lantana (Lantana camara) has become one of the most invasive weeds in the world. Shonil Bhagwat and others discussed the history of lantana invasion and management in India, Australia, and South Africa. These are the highlights of their research published in the journal PLoS One, summarized by Krithi K. Karanth for the Indian Conservation Organization.

  • The authors examined 75% of known historical records for the species in India, Australia and South Africa.

  • The radical extermination measures taken by the government in the past 200 years have basically failed. These measures include fire, mechanical, chemical, biological, and combinations of these methods.

  • Lantana continues to spread and occupies 13 million hectares in India, 5 million in Australia and 2 million in South Africa

  • Post war land use change is speculated to be possible trigger.

Methods

The author collected 1,672 land and forest management report records from the 19th century to the present. In addition, the forestry work plan of India also compiles the reports of the forestry department and the records of the Indian Forest Administration. Recorded severity begins with 17 points, of which 7 are the most severe.

The Results

Early invasion of lantana is recorded for towns and cities; it subsequently spread to the countryside.

Lantana has strong adaptability and grows in a wide range of habitats from sea level to mountain. Rainfall reaches 1,0004,000 mm/year, making it difficult for seedlings of other plants to grow.

Lantana was later recognized as a weed, and management needs emerged in India and Australia in the 1920s and in South Africa in the 1950s.

Lantana has both positive and negative effects on the ecosystem. Impacts include the ability to hinder certain species and increase the regeneration of certain species, increase water runoff, and reduce or increase soil erosion. According to records, it provides cover and food for the welfare of certain wildlife and the livelihoods of local communities (crafts, paper, furniture).

Long-term monitoring studies on Lantana needed

Lantana is here. The painful lessons learned from costly and largely ineffective eradication efforts suggest that we may need to manage species adaptively. This requires long-term research (> ten years) in space under various conditions. Perhaps it is best to recognize the functional role of this species and manage it accordingly.

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