Lantana Camara infestation in India mounts to near Kuwait geographical area & in HP to around South Sudan

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Photo used for indicative purpose only. Source: Internet

ML Verma
Shimla, March 2

‘Lantana Camara’ infestation is spreading like wild fire in the Indian forests. As per data it has now covered geographical area almost equivalent to the total square area of a country like Kuwait. Even in Himachal Pradesh the area covered by Lantana should be equal to South Sudan.

Extent of coverage of invasive species
State of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu. Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra are being occupied by this wild invasive shrub along with 26 other states in the country. The area under its invasion in some states is more than the size of many countries in the world today.
This invasive species is not only confined to the state forest of Himachal Pradesh however FSI stated in the report 2019 that it was found in all states and union territory. The total spread is 17511 sq km area.
Lantana is found in 4416 sq km area in Madhya Pradesh, 2863 sq km in Karnataka, 2209 sq km in Tamil Nadu, 1332 sq km area of Chhattisgarh, 1185 sq km area in Maharashtra, 798 sq km in UP, 665 sq km in Jharkhand, 654 sq km in HP, 652 sq km in Punjab, 605 sq km in Uttrakhand, respectively.
Report found 518 sq km area in Andhra Pradesh is under Lantana, 490 sq km in Bihar, 339 sq km in Assam, 259 sq km in Telangana,  236 sq km in Odisha , 210 sq km in Rajasthan, 185 sq km in Kerala, 139 sq km in Gujarat, 132 sq km in Jammu and Kashmir, 107 sq km in Arunachal Pradesh, 78 sq km in Chhattisgarh, 47 sq km in West Bengal, 39 sq km in Meghalaya, three sq km in Tripura, 2.55 sq km  in Chandigarh, One Sq km in Sikkim and 0.72 sq km in state of Delhi.
FSI Incharge talks about the survey
Talking about it In charge of Indian Forest Survey of India Satya Prakash Negi said that
till 2017 IFSI did not conduct any survey of invasive species and it was in 2019 when Forest Survey of India report extended its mandate.
Indian State of Forest Report 2019 defines Invasive Species which are not native to specific location. Such introduced species has tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to environment, human economy and human health.
Scenario in Himachal Pradesh

The Geographical area equal to South Sudan or around size of Maldives is infested by Lantana Camara in fallow, forest and pasture land in the State of Himachal Pradesh.
The report found that around 654 square kilometer Restricted Forest Area ( RFA) or Green Wash in Himachal Pradesh is infested by it. Lantana Camara tops among the five invasive and exotic plant species spreading naturally in the forest fallow and pasture land in low elevation.
Four others invasive species traced by the ISFR-2019 is Ageratina Adenophora ( 39 sq km), Ageratum Conyzoides (36 Sq km), Melochia Corchorifolia (30sq km) and Dioscorea Deltoidea (30 sq km) and Dioscorea Deltoidea (29 sq km). The data of IFSI 2017 are not available about these invasive species as FSI started conducting enumeration of such wanted species after 2017, SP Negi informed.
Scrub which is defined by the FSI as degraded forest land is having canopy density of less than ten percent. However Negi said that Invasive types which have to be Alien Species are not covered in the scrub forest area.
On the basis of tree green cover and density FSI divides forest into four type which include Scrub, Open forest (OF), Medium Density forest (MDF) and Very high density forest (VDF).  Forest was classified as VDF forest if its tree covers is above 70 to 100 pc. If it is 40 to 70 pc it is called MDF and if its density is between 10 to 40 it is called the open forest and if it is less than ten percent forest areas are called the scrubs.
ISFR -2019 report states that out of total 55673 sq km geographical area of state there are about 15,433. 52 sq km area(27.72 per cent) under forest which included 3112.71 sq km VDF, 7125.93 sq km –MDF,  5,194.88 sq km Open Forest and 315.28 scrubs.
However in terms of size of geographical area 37,033 Sq m (66.52 pc ) area is recorded as forest land which further divided into 6506 Sq Km forests are Tropical and Sub-Tropical Forest.
Negi said that tropical & subtropical forests are facing biological invasions by Lantana Camara one of the anthropogenic ally mediated ecological perturbations – are threatening native biodiversity, preventing natural ecological succession and changing the community structure and composition, besides impacting ecosystem services.
A report published by the state Forest department said that lantana camara is perhaps one of the most important invasive alien plant species (exotic weed) in forest ecosystems of India as also in Himachal Pradesh. According to the forest department around 2600 sq. km of area under forest cover lies in the lower elevation (upto 1000m) out of which about 60 percent is infested with Lantana to varying extent.
Infestation is rapidly spreading and has been noticed in elevations upto 1500m. The districts of Kangra, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Solan, Sirmour, Chamba and Mandi have been heavily infested, while Shimla has been marginally affected.
HP Forest Department had also carried out a reconnaissance survey to map the infestation in various Divisions and Circles. According to this reconnaissance survey, approximately 1563 Sq KM forest land is infested with Lantana camara. Apart from this 20 Sq Km road side and 250 Sq. Km barren land (Cultivable waste and Fellow land) is also infested by Lantana camara.
Former IFS officer Kuldeep Singh Tanwar said that beside the weed invasion is being made by the Lantana in the pastures, barren and uncultivable wastelands in many district of Himachal including Solan, Shimla, Sirmaur , Una and Bilaspur district.

What is Lanatan Camara species
Commonly called Phullakari or Phulnu’ or ‘Panchphulli’, Lantana camara is probably native to South America which was introduced in India for ornamental purposes during the Colonial rule. At present is spreading like wildfire gutting the quality forest areas, besides disturbing suitable habitats of the wild boar and other wild animals that are then causing damage to the farmer crops.
The State Forest Department on its website stated that Lantana weed is a perennial spreading shrub belonging to the Verbenaceae family.  The plant is in active vegetative growth during March to August (monsoon) and produces flowers and fruits during June to October. It is mostly dormant during November to February.
The weed has a strong horizontal root system spreading under the surface and moderately deep i.e. 25-30 cm in the soil. The leaves are thick and contain lantandene- A, a toxic substance for cattle. This clever plant stores its food material in roots and crown and is an exceedingly strong coppicer. Its main coppice strength lies in the ‘collar’ portion. Besides, it also spreads through seeds and air layering, but does not spread through root suckers.

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