The environmental association Vita Nativa (based in Olhão) recently wrote in to tell us all about their latest project that's trying to help control, remove or, at least, locate the various kinds of invasive flora that aren’t leaving space for the native species to grow. I’ll let them tell you about it…
The problems with exotic plants
A native plant occurs naturally without having been placed there by man. These plants create a natural environment in ecosystems. An exotic plant, on the other hand, occurs outside its natural distribution area, as a result of human action.
These introductions can lead to their expansion and dispersion to adjacent areas, spreading very quickly. When an exotic species has a dispersal capacity and a large seed production, it is considered an invasive alien species.
In Portugal, these plants often arrive unintentionally, and after being sold they escape and start spreading to places where we don’t want them.
Despite the positive aspects that sometimes justify their introduction, they are responsible for a lot of negative impacts as well.
● On the economic level: they invade agricultural areas and lots of money has to be spent on methods to get rid of them (it is estimated a loss of 12 million euros per year, at a European level, is associated with invaders).
● In public health: species that can cause allergies or attract pests.
● In terms of groundwater: species that consume great quantities and grow in high densities can decrease its availability for other plants..
● In ecosystem balance: they can alter biochemical cycles, food chains, fire regimes and compete with native species.
● In ecosystem services: they can affect food production, water supply and climate regulation.
In this context, invasive alien species are currently one of the main threats to biodiversity, as well as ecosystems, being a priority on a European level to combat this problem. And for this, awareness and collaboration are essential.
That's why Vita Nativa will try to do our bit to help by taking actions to remove invasive species of flora in the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
In the first phase, we hosted an activity with the general public that consisted of mapping out the areas with exotic/invasive species in the Quinta de Marim, finding the areas with the biggest problem.
With the help of 9 participants, we were able to identify species such as the ‘chorão-da-praia’ or Hottentot-fig (Carpobrotus edulis), the ‘azeda’ or Bermuda Buttercups (Oxalis pes-caprae), the ‘piteira’ or Century Plant (Agave americana), ‘Cana’ or giant cane (Arundo donax), the ‘spartina’ (Spartina densiflora), and the ‘frésia’ or freesia (Freesia refracta) and two succulent species of the genus Crassula and Aeonium.
Also, with the help of the participants, we photographed and uploaded our findings onto a smartphone application called ‘Plantas Invasoras’. This app allows anybody to become what we call a ‘Cidadão Cientista’ (citizen scientist) and register the precise location of any invasive species they find.
Over the next few months, we will continue to streamline these activities, hosting events on a monthly basis, in order to make our protected areas more natural and free from invasive species.
If you want to be part of this fight for conservation at Quinta de Marim, then to find out more and to register for future events, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.