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Alien plants growing together threatening tiger habitats

GS Paper 3 

Source: DTE

 

Context: According to a study conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), several alien invasive plants (like Lantana Camara, Parthenium hysterophorous, Prosopis juliflora, etc) growing together can have a detrimental effect on the biodiversities in tiger habitats.

 

Invasive species:

  • Invasive/introduced/alien/exotic species are any non-native species that significantly modify or disrupt the ecosystem it colonises.
  • Such species may arrive in new areas through natural migration, but they are often introduced by the activities of other species like Humans.

 

Background:

  • The study was conducted in Kanha Tiger Reserve (MP), comparing uninvaded native forests with old-growth invasions of single and multiple alien plants.
  • India’s biodiverse ecosystems are threatened by a variety of alien plants, introduced during British colonisation. Lantana alone has pervasively invaded 44% of India’s forests.
  • Apart from their spread in different ecosystems, little is known and even greater confusion when one asks about how alien plants impact native ecosystems.

 

Highlights of the study:

  • Co-occurring invasive plants have a magnified cumulative impact than their individual impacts, causing ecological homogenisation in invaded regions.
  • Multiple alien species together affected soil nutrients and the abundance of rich grasses and herbs.
  • Depletion of the native plant populations → Reduced forage availability for herbivores like sambar and chital → diseases in the herbivores → threaten the sustenance of tiger, leopard and dhole.

 

What needs to be done? Prioritise restoration investments in the least invaded regions to retain native biodiversity and slowly upscale such restored habitats.