Break through in controlling an Invasive Vine in the Pacific

22 Sep 2010

Vatthe Conservation Area owners in Vanuatu, working with Bird Life Internationals’ New Zealand Partner, Forest and Bird have developed a successful method of controlling the invasive vine, Merremia peltata, which is destroying forests on many Pacific Islands.

Sue Maturin, Forests and Bird’s Vanuatu specialist has been working with the owners of Vatthe Conservation Area on the Island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu to trial the use of herbicides and cutting the vine, a member of the Convolvulaceae family.

Vatthe is Vanuatu’s largest Conservation Area, and most extensive lowland alluvial forest. It’s diverse wildlife includes the globally endangered, Gallicolumba santaecrusis and three vulnerable endemic bird species, Megapodius layardi, Erythrura trichroa, and Todiramphus farquahari. Vatthe is on the Vanuatu Government’s tentative site list for World Heritage nomination.

“We can kill the vines by injecting ‘Weedmaster Duo’ (active ingredient 360g/L glyphosate) into the vines main stem. We have also developed special hole punches, injection kits and a walking stick injector which means people can walk through the forest easily and quickly injecting the myriads of ground running stems, that lie tangled like a mass of electric wiring on the forest floor.” Sue Maturin says.

“Now hundreds of unhealthy trees have regenerated their crowns and the forest floor is covered with young seedlings.’
Forest & Bird has teamed up with a Vanuatu NGO partner - Eco-Lifelihood Development Associates (EDA) who will take over management of the project. The two organizations have gained a $US 50,000 grant from UNDP/GEF/SGP to develop landowner capacity to control the invasive vine, Merremia peltata.

Vatthe landowners and surrounding villagers are now injecting weedmaster into the large stems and cutting all the smaller stems as they climb into the canopy. It is hoped this will reduce the density of vine to a level where the landowners can control it in the future by regular cycles of hand cutting in 800ha that surround a core vine free 200ha area.

“We hope this is a breakthrough as until now most people have thought it would be impossible to control this giant super weed which is capable of completely smothering vast areas of forest.”

Contact: Sue Maturin 0064 3477 9677, 0064 21 222 5092, s.