NEW DRAFT GUIDELINES FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF INVASIVE PLANTS AND RESTORATION OF NATIVE PLANTS
A policy guidance document aimed at managing non-native plant invaders and restoring native plant communities in the Maltese Islands has been issued for public consultation by the Environment Protection Directorate within MEPA.
With the spread of invasive alien species (IAS) becoming a growing environmental concern, the Authority through this policy document, is calling for action to address those species that have inadvertently been introduced in the Maltese Islands and have subsequently invaded semi-natural and natural ecosystems to the detriment of native biodiversity.
Mr Darrin Stevens, Manager for the Ecosystems Management Unit within EPD said “that while prevention is recognised as the first line of defence to stop the introduction of these species at national borders, action needs to be taken given that the spread and impacts associated with IAS also undermine our ongoing efforts at conserving the biodiversity of the Maltese Islands.”
Mr Stevens continued to highlight that “the scope of these draft guidelines is largely to assist in the planning and implementation of management programmes aimed at counteracting the spread of plant invaders found in rural areas and to serve as assistance when designing and implementing programmes aimed at reinstating native plant communities.”
“The guidelines are primarily targeted towards site managers of protected areas and all entities involved in the removal of invasive plants and habitat restoration, and will serve as guidance to be followed when implementing conditions for the removal of invasive plants and that accompany development permits” he concluded.
The conservation measures that involve alien plant eradications and native species reintroductions are inherently complex. Indeed, such endeavours must be developed on a sound information basis so as to avoid undesirable effects, whilst maximising beneficial effects on local biodiversity in the most financially and ecologically viable manner.
These guidelines address some of the major plant invaders in the Maltese Islands such as the Kaffir Figs (is-Swaba’ tal-Madonna), Tree of Heaven (ix-Xumakk il-Falz), Acacias (l-Akaċja) and the Garden Nasturtium (il-Kaboċċinella). These plant invasions are only considered in the context of terrestrial, riparian and coastal communities not in the marine environment. This policy document excludes ruderals, plant pests and diseases, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Over the past months, the Authority has been proactive in promoting of native tree and shrub planting by publishing a user friendly guidebook entitled the ‘Common Species used for Landscaping in the Maltese Islands’. This well illustrated booklet serves as a practical and quick reference guide for landscaping schemes in relation to environment concerns, and also includes detailed lists of species that are relevant to the environmental context. The Authority has also published an awareness booklet entitled ‘Code of Conduct – Horticulture & Invasive Alien Plants’, which is aimed at promoting good practices by entities which trade in non-native ornamental plants.
The public and all interested stakeholders can view the proposed guidelines on MEPA’s website at http://www.mepa.org.mt/public-consultation. All comments and proposals pertaining to this guidance document can be sent to the Environment Protection Directorate on the email address firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 07 November 2011.