Have you ever been asked, or have you ever thought: Why might having some species that aren’t normally found in a place create a problem for nature? Can this be the case for both plants and animals?
Remember back in my first dispatch to you, when the problem of the hyacinths in Lake Ravelobe was introduced. (See Madagascar Research & Conservation post.)
We’ve been working with the local park service (called Madagascar National Parks) and other partners to come up with potential solutions. The first step is, of course, removing as many hyacinths as we can. As the easiest way to do this is by hand, we’ve coordinated with a local “Friends of the Lake” association and additional people living here to recruit and pay for pulling the hyacinths out of the water from the banks. The park service’s tractor will then take the loads and loads of the pulled plants away for disposal. This way, not only do we have conservation action to help the ecosystem here, the local economy gets a boost, too!
One early problem we had to tackle was how to keep the hyacinths near
the banks so folks could reach them easily and also be at less risk from
crocodiles. These masses of plants are so thick and heavy, it’s easy to
think of them as sideways walls of floating vegetation! We had the
idea of using grappling hooks on ropes to reach out and keep pulling
more and more of these heavy, floating mats of plants to the shore for
removal. Problem is: no hooks!
Volunteer fosa project field assistants Matt and Tommo, here via the Earthwatch Institute,
put their heads and “back home” skills together and came up with a
perfect solution. Matt, from Holland, has engineering and design
experience and Tommo has been fabricating and making tools on his farm
in Australia for more than 40 years. One morning last week they went to
market in the city of Amboromalandy (about 40 miles north of the park),
bought some re-bar (used in building and construction) and found a
welder. With their design and using these simple resources, they got the
welder to cut lengths of the re-bar and weld them together so the
“petals” could be bent in to a hook. Voila! Grappling hooks for pulling
hyacinths to the shores of Lake Ravelobe.
Even though this project has only just started, I can see that we’re
making real headway in to helping fix this problem of invasive plant
species. I hope you’ll be able to see several of the pictures I’ve sent
and that you will agree! It’s a big task, but together we’ll get it
Can you name or look up any other stories of how invasive plant species have impacted nature in other places, and what was done to address the problem? What about animals?