Railway side mapping of alien plant distributions in Mpumalanga, South Africa
Background: Alien plant invasions are among the major threats to natural and semi-natural ecosystems in South Africa on approximately 18 million hectares of land. Much of the available data are not suitable for planning of local scale management because it is presented at a quarter degree grid square scale, which makes accurate location and estimates of invaded areas
Objectives: The aim was to identify the dominant alien plant species and quantify their areal extent along a 479 km railway corridor in the Mpumalanga province.
Method: The extent of the invaded area was obtained by manual digitising of alien plant distribution and density from Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre 5 imagery and by further applying an Iterative Self-Organising Data Analysis technique of the unsupervised classification method. Species’ occurrences were located and identified in the field using a Global Positioning System.
Results: The most dominant invaders in terms of the number of individual polygons and the infested area were Eucalyptus spp., Acacia spp., Populus alba L., Pinus patula Schltdl & Cham., Salix babylonica L. and Caesalpinia decapetala (Roth) Alston. These species have also been previously classified as major invaders, although the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act regulations permit their planting provided spreading to adjacent areas is avoided except for C. decapetala, which must be cleared under all circumstances.
Conclusion: Knowledge of the species’ occurrence and their extent will assist landowners and relevant authorities to control the spread of alien plants, which impact rail safety, agricultural production, water availability and biodiversity.