Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and human well-being, but are they invincible?
Before — A forest patch completely covered with Lantana camara before restoration, with virtually no native vegetation
Photographs: Ramesh Venkataraman
Bomma watches his father Kempa deftly remove a Lantana camara bush, cutting it two inches below the ground. 18 years old and illiterate, Bomma is a Jenu Kuruba, an indigenous tribe of the Nilgiri biosphere. Working with elders in her community on forest conservation helps her imbibe the traditional ecological knowledge of her ancestors, passed down from generation to generation through observation and experience. Invasive alien plant species like Lantana camara are a major threat to ecosystems around the world. An exotic plant species is a species that has been transferred from its original habitat or ecosystem to a new habitat, primarily by human intervention. They are also called exotic species. Many of these species tend to be aggressive colonizers who quickly take over introduced ecosystems, repelling native species, and therefore qualified as invasive.
India has its share of invasive plant species. Many forest areas in the country are occupied by Lantana camara, a species of South American origin that was introduced to India around two centuries ago by the British as an ornamental plant. Shola …