Fighting the war against invasive alien species

With the problem of invasive alien species as pervasive as ever, the Environment and Resources Authority shares some insight about how we can help protect Malta’s ecosystem.
The golden wreath wattle may be pretty to look at, but it wreaks havoc on local flora.

If you’ve ever ventured into Malta’s idyllic countryside, chances are you’ve come face-to-face with the very organisms that are threatening its existence – invasive alien species (IAS).

Alien or non-native species are organisms – be it plants, animals, fungi, or bacteria – that have been introduced, be it intentionally or accidentally, into a habitat they are not normally found in from other habitats/regions. The problems start when such species become invasive, outcompeting native species for food and habitat, spreading throughout their new environment, increasing its population size and disturbing the ecosystem.

This problem is not only local. Europe recorded around 12,000 alien species, 10 to 15 per cent of which are estimated to be invasive but the issue in Malta is amplified. As an archipelago, our ecosystems have been evolutionarily isolated for centuries as such invasive alien species pose greater risks to local species.

Invasive alien species often have no natural enemies, and this consequently helps them to increase in numbers. Such invasive species often also share similar characteristics which are typically harmful to the local biodiversity, such as being able to live in their new conditions, grow and reproduce quickly, are good at dispersing or spreading into new areas.

What can you do to help? First of all, it’s good to grow familiar with the alien invasive plants around Malta. Here are a couple:

  • Golden wreath wattle / L-akaċja (Acacia saligna)
  • Tree-of-heaven / Ix-xumakk (Ailanthus altissima)
  • Balloon vine / Tuffieħ ir-riħ (Cardiospermum grandiflorum)
  • Crimson fountaingrass / Il-pjuma (Pennisetum setaceum)
  • Marvels-of-Peru / Il-ħummejr (Mirabilis jalapa)

In order to check out all the specimen present in Malta and to learn more about them, you can download the Invasive Alien Species in Europe app to check out all the specimen present in Malta. Being informed about the risks IAS pose is a great first step to curbing the issue. If you’d like to take your involvement a step further, here are a couple of things you can do:

  • Plant local species in your personal garden
  • Read and follow the Codes of Good Practice
  • Report sightings of invasive alien species through the IAS in Europe app
  • Spread the word

You can download the Invasive Alien Species in Europe app by visiting the Android or Apple app stores. For more Sunday Circle magazine environmental features check out these findings about endangered birds‘ breeding being disrupted. For something completely different, read this interview with content creator Stella Cini.


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