• Post category:2021 / News
  • Reading time:3 mins read
1 February 2021 | By Susan Canavan

Bamboos have caused widespread damaging invasions in many regions of the world. In South Africa, despite a long-history of introduction, little is known on the bamboo species currently present and their invasion history.  With increasing commercial interest in bamboos a recent assessment, led by C·I·B PhD graduate Susan Canavan, was undertaken to determine the current status of alien bamboos in order to assess the emerging risks and update legislation.

The study found that 28 species have been officially recorded as introduced, although only 8 could be confirmed as present. The distribution of bamboos across the country varied depending on the information source (e.g. herbarium records, expert opinion and public participation) highlighting the benefit of collating data to better capture the distribution of alien taxa. There has been a marked under-reporting of the presence of bamboos around the country. Notably, there are more invasive temperate taxa found in urban sites, which are a much newer introduction (See figure).

The study found no evidence of major bamboo invasions in natural areas, but given the emergence of more invasive taxa there may be a lag phase before invasions and impacts are seen. Caution should be taken regarding future introductions for commercial cultivation, as the nature of the plantings will likely differ from the historical situation in both the location, configuration, and the scale of cultivation. The study also concluded that the bamboo taxa currently listed in national legislation was found to be low-risk for invasion and therefore regulations should be updated to reflect the emerging risks of invasive temperate taxa.

Read the full paper

Canavan, S., Richardson, D.M., Le Roux, J.J., Kelchner, S.A., Wilson, J.R.U., n.d. The status of alien bamboos in South Africa. South African Journal of Botany. doi:10.1016/j.sajb.2020.11.027

 For more information, contact Susan Canavan at sucanavan@gmail.com.

The distribution and timeline of introductions of different types of bamboos in South Africa.
The distribution and timeline of introductions of different types of bamboos in South Africa. (A) Observed populations of alien bamboo species (Poaceae subfamily Bambusoideae) in South Africa from 1896 to 2017 displayed according to data sources (herbarium records, personal observations, and responses from an online questionnaire in 2017) and the lineage type (herbaceous, temperate, tropical, and unspecified; for details of these categories see the methods). (B) Number of populations of different bamboo lineage types recorded in South Africa between 1940 and 2016. Information comes from herbaria records and observations made during this study (grey shaded area).