The 2012 Toyota Enviro Outreach project, which started earlier this week at the Klipbokkop Mountain Reserve in the Western Cape and runs until April 27, will this year address one of the biggest ecological challenges in Africa and globally: the invasion and spread of alien species.
During the 13 days of the project, scientists will visit several reserves in the Western Cape to collect specimens from a broad range of invasive and native species and to produce DNA barcode records for all of them.
Successful invasive management requires early detection of alien invasive species and a rapid response to eradicate them. However, the most cost-effective strategy is to identify potential invasives before they spread.
As such the specimens collected during the Toyota Enviro Outreach project and their DNA barcodes will be available on the Barcode of Life Data Base (BOLD) and enable rapid identification of invasive species in South Africa. In addition, border cross-checks will be provided with molecular tools to identify invasive plants and animals at our borders.
Currently there is an alarming uncertainty regarding the future of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, given that all climate change scenarios predict an increase in species invasiveness. South Africa is currently facing one of the largest problems with invasive plant species in the world, with the Fynbos Biome being a particularly vulnerable vegetation type in South Africa.
In South Africa more than 550 alien plant species have become established in natural areas and many are known to be contributing to the widespread transformation of once pristine habitats Animal species have also established feral populations in the country and have a negative impact on native species.
The most drastic impact of invasive animal species have been recorded in South African rivers, where alien fish such as carp and bass have altered habitats and successfully out-competed native fauna.
Today at least 60% of South Africa’s endemic freshwater fish are threatened. Thirteen snail species have established invasive populations in South Africa and forty of the 42 major invertebrate crop pests are not native to South Africa. This raises serious concerns about the future of our agriculture and ecosystem-related services.
For example, in South Africa, invasions have reduced the value of fynbos ecosystems by over R120 billion, the total cost of lost water resources due to invasion is estimated to be about R35 billion on the Agulhas Plain alone and the net present cost of invasion by black wattles amounts to R17 billion with the cost to clear alien plant invasions around R720 million per year.
These alarming figures of impact have led the South African Government to establish the ‘Working for Water’ programme with the specific objective of managing invasive alien plants to protect water resources and ensuring the security of water supply.
The Toyota Enviro Outreach project, which aims to safeguard our natural wealth and reduce biodiversity loss, is part of the international Barcode of Life (IBOL) project, the biggest biodiversity genomics initiative ever undertaken and led is a team of Canadian scientists.
Accurate identification of invasive alien species is essential to facilitate planning of eradication, containment and management efforts. It is believed that the most cost-effective approach is to identify and manage potential invasive species before they spread.
This project, which aims to safeguard our natural wealth and reduce biodiversity loss, is part of a campaign called the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project, the biggest biodiversity genomics initiative ever undertaken and led by a team of Canadian scientists.
The specimens collected by the Enviro Outreach team and their DNA barcodes will be available on the Barcode of Life Data Base (BOLD) and enable rapid identification of invasive species in South Africa. In the future border checks may be provided with molecular tools to identify invasive plants and animals enabling prevention of prohibited species entering South Africa.
The following are some statements from leading scientists and role players on the Toyota Enviro Outreach:
Philip Ivey, National Co-ordinator, Early Detection and Rapid Response Programme, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), Programme sponsored by Working for Water (WfW)
“The collaboration between Toyota Enviro Outreach and the African Centre for DNA Barcoding with additional funds from Natural Resource Management of the Department of Environmental Affairs facilitated by SANBI will greatly assist South Africa to reduce the threat of invasive alien species. DNA barcoding of species, that could invade and damage South Africa’s rich biodiversity, will facilitate; accurate, rapid and cost effective identification of species that are sometimes difficult to identify. Accurate identification is essential for planning and enforcement of laws to manage particular species.”
Jesse Ausubel, Chairperson of the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) Board
“Southern Africa combines unique ecology, outstanding scientists, and world-class institutions such as the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Prof van der Bank and her colleagues are sure to make discoveries in the Toyota Enviro Outreach important for the Cape region and for the world. I am delighted this cutting-edge research is part of the International Barcode of Life initiative.”
Rocky Skeef, Deputy Chairperson of the iBOL board
“It is impressive to see the sort of academia-industry-government three-way cooperation that is evident in the Toyota Enviro Outreach. I believe this initiative will go a long way to exciting young scientists/people on the value of barcoding, and serve as an inspiration for many to pursue the related fields of study. Such partnerships need to be replicated and strengthened. The developing world, including South Africa, being the bearer of a large portion of the world’s biodiversity, would do well to ramp up capacity to ensure that it plays a central role in protecting its native species from invasive ones, through this technique that is high tech, futuristic and efficient.”
Greg Singer, Project Manager, iBOL
“The early identification of invasive species is key to their management, and there’s no doubt that DNA barcoding will play a key role in mitigating this risk in the future. This is just one of the many reasons that the International Barcode of Life Project is attempting to create a reference database of DNA barcodes for a large fraction of Earth’s species. Invasives are estimated to have an economic impact measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year, so if the Toyota Enviro Outreach programme leads to the prevention of even a single invasive it will have paid for itself many times over. I believe this programme will serve as a model that will be replicated in other countries around the globe.”