Working Group on Alien Grasses launched

Alien grasses have major impacts elsewhere in the world, causing for example drastic changes to fire regimes and thereby completely altering plant communities and vegetation structure. In South Africa, grasses seemingly have had little impact on ecosystems, but this lack of an observed impact may largely be due to the fact that this group of plants has received so little attention from invasion biologists and managers in the country. On Monday 5 August 2013, a group of eleven people from all over South Africa gathered in Stellenbosch for the inaugural meeting of the National Working Group on Alien Grasses.

Drawing on the expertise of all the meeting attendees, the group outlined a strategy for determining what alien grasses occur in the country, where they occur, what impacts they are having, and the risk each species has of becoming problematic in the future. This information will be used for drawing up a management plan for the SANBI Invasive Species Programme for working on this group of plants, and allow us to prioritise eradication or management of species that pose the greatest threats.

The Working Group also identified bamboos as needing specific attention, because there is increasing interest in growing these plants for furniture, construction material and as a source of fuel. However, there has seemingly been little research done on the potential for alien bamboos to become invasive and on how best to manage bamboo plantations to prevent such an outcome. The SANBI Invasive Species Programme is therefore seeking a Masters student to develop a project on bamboos, which will be advertised in the near future.

Founding members of the National Working Group on Alien Grasses

Founding members of the National Working Group on Alien Grasses (clockwise from top-left): Lyn Fish (retired SANBI taxonomist), David Le Maitre (CSIR), Dave Richardson (C·I·B), Tim OíConnor (SAEON), Philip Ivey (SANBI ISP), Seb Rahlao (Dept. Environmental Affairs), Carly Brown (UWC), John Wilson (C·I·B and SANBI ISP), Vernon Visser (C·I·B and SANBI ISP), Kim Canavan (Rhodes) and Sabrina Kumschick (C·I·B).

For more information on the Working Groupís plans, or if you are interested in helping us in our endeavours, please contact Vernon Visser (