‘Lack of Regulations’ Lets Invasive Species Crowd Out Native Flora

Selasa, 04 September 2012 | 09:03

The Environment Ministry has bemoaned the lack of legal restrictions on managing non-native plant species, which it identifies as posing a threat to the country’s indigenous biodiversity.Sugeng Harmonom, the ministry’s head of biodiversity security management, said on Sunday that while there was a raft of regulations in place on biodiversity protection, there were no rules expressly restricting the cultivation of so-called invasive alien species of plants.

“This leaves quarantine officials confused over how to deal with the flow of IAS imports,” he said.

IAS are defined as species that are introduced to an area outside their natural habitat, where they often end up crowding out indigenous plant species and overrunning the area.

Sugeng said there were a host of international conventions dealing with the IAS issue, including the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), but Indonesia had yet to take the matter seriously.

“The CBD specifies a goal called the Aichi Target, which urges caution in dealing with IAS and calls for an improved biodiversity database and networking links,” he said.

“But in Indonesia we remain very weak in terms of data collection and information about the spread of IAS.”

Titiek Setyawati, a researcher with the Forestry Ministry’s Conservation and Rehabilitation Research Center, agreed that regulations explicitly targeting foreign plant imports were needed and said it should be up to the Agriculture Ministry, which oversees the quarantine department, to issue them.

“The regulations don’t exist yet because most people don’t understand the social and economic risks posed by invasive plant species,” she said.

Adi Susmianto, the head of the research center, first raised concerns about IAS on Friday, when he noted that acacia trees originally from India now covered almost half of the Baluran National Park in East Java, a previously savanna area and one of the last remaining habitats of the Java banteng, a species of wild cattle.

The acacias were originally planted on the periphery of the park to prevent wildfires from spreading, but the trees soon encroached into the park, reducing the amount of grazing land for the banteng.

“There used to be 200 banteng and now there are only 34,” Adi said.

Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, straddling three provinces in southern Sumatra, is also under threat from the similarly invasive Merremia peltata, a type of morning glory known locally as mantangan , Adi said.

The plant is indigenous to the area but has spread over 10,000 hectares of land at the national park, threatening other types of plants there.

Soekisman Tjitrosoedirjo, a botanist, said invasive plant species could have an adverse effect on native trees and weeds, and ultimately force local wildlife to relocate or die of starvation.

by Fidelis E. Satriastanti
source http://www.thejakartaglobe.com