NGO SREPEN-RNE fights against invasive alien species (IAS) in La Réunion

This LIFE4BEST project titled “Raising awareness on IAS and planting native species” (Sensibilisation sur les EEE et plantation d’espèces indigènes) and led by local NGO Société Réunionnaise pour l’Étude et la Protection de l’Environnement – Réunion Nature Environnement SREPEN-RNE (Reunionese Society for the Study and Protection of the Environment – Réunion Nature Environnement) ended in late 2022 having met all of its targets.

Figure 1. Project area

The project was implemented in the village of Brûlé, located in the commune of Saint Denis, spanning across altitudes that range from 600 to 1000 m. The 1623 inhabitants of the village see a monthly flow of 3000 tourists throughout the year. The vast majority of tourists, local or foreign, go through Mamode Camp of the Réunion National Park on their way to the Roche Écrite viewpoint. This constant flow of visitors is partly responsible for the spread of IAS seeds.

The species targeted by the project are some of the IAS usually encountered on the island: red liana, Persicaria chinensis; mistflower, Ageratina riparia; Strobilanthes hamiltonianus (a shrub of the Acanthaceae family); soft bollygum, Litsea glutinosa; Kahili ginger, Hedychium gardnerianum; lacy tree fern, Sphaeropteris cooperi.

The IAS control strategy in La Réunion highlights the absolute need to develop preventive rather than curative actions in terms of managing invasive processes. SREPEN-RNE’s approach entailed making residents aware of the pressure of IAS and getting them involved by enabling them to plant native and endemic species in their own gardens. The idea was to enhance the natural and cultural heritage through a plant barter “One endemic plant offered for an invasive exotic plant uprooted”, to cultivate Reunionese plants at home, and to reconnect with “lakour medicine”.

Door-to-door visits were conducted to 180 homes (the initial target was 145) to present the project and to stress the impact of IAS, and the village inhabitants’ reaction was overall positive, with 120 homes joining the barter initiative. Additionally, several communication materials (flyers, posters and booklets) were created and distributed in the Brûlé primary school.

Figure 2. Villagers coming in to trade invasive plants (photos: Jim Bègue, SREPEN-RNE)

There are several follow-up options SREPEN-RNE is currently exploring, including the creation of a local plant nursery, IAS uprooting campaigns, detailed IAS mapping around Brûlé village.

More information about the association’s activities can be found here.