Use of non-timber forest products from invasive alien Prosopis species (mesquite) and native trees in South Africa: implications for management
Le Maitre, D.C.
van Wilgen, B.W.
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Background: Prosopis species have been introduced to many areas outside their native range to provide benefits to local communities. Several Prosopis species and their hybrids (hereafter “mesquite”) have, however, become naturalised and invasive and now generate substantial costs. Management options are limited because of the complex conflicts of interest regarding benefits and costs. Management policies and strategies must take account of such conflicts, but further insights are needed on the dimensions of uses and impacts before such information can be usefully applied. Current policy in South Africa allows for the growth and use of mesquite in one province, but not in others where its control is mandatory. We report on a study to quantify the direct use and perceptions of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) from mesquite and native trees in South Africa. Methods: Semi-structures household interviews were conducted with various stakeholder groups to identify what tree products are used, to ascertain amounts used as well as to gauge perceptions of natural resource use between different tree species and use over time. Results: The direct household use value of native trees was higher than that of mesquite, and local stakeholders attached greater value to products from native trees than from mesquite. Therefore, native trees are and will still be preferentially harvested, and mesquite is unlikely to offer protection to native species by providing an alternative source of products. Mesquite pods do, however, provide valuable additional resources (fodder and medicinal products). The use of both native trees and mesquite is decreasing as the incomes of poorer households rise and as alternative energy sources become available. The benefits and reliance on mesquite are not as high as previously assumed and the impacts from mesquite invasions create large problems for local communities. Conclusion: This study provides further evidence that the impacts of mesquite exceed the benefits, lending support for a policy to reduce negative impacts.