BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 51

Ph o to Va ay C i nill hile /S h u tter sto c k Kahili Ginger Azores, Portugal St raw ber ry G uava Rapa Iti, French Polynesia Even on Rapa Iti, one of the world’s remotest islands, alien plant life has taken root. Strawberry Guava Psidium cattleianum, a South American tree that bears an edible, plum-sized fruit, is a well-known invasive pest that has wreaked havoc on ecosystems from Florida to Australia. When distanced from factors such as native seed- predators in Brazil that keep its growth in check, Strawberry Guava can spread rapidly in dense thickets that prove incredibly difficult to remove. Its presence is a major threat to Rapa Iti’s array of unique wildlife (the island boasts over a hundred endemic land snails alone). The permanent removal of these thickets is one of the key objectives of our 2017 Birdfair project, “Saving Paradise in the Pacific”. apr-jun 2018 • birdlife More than 60% of the plant life found on the Azores archipelago in the North Atlantic originates from overseas – introduced to the islands either for agricultural or ornamental purposes. They include rugged species such as the Kahili ginger Hedychium gardnerianum of India and Nepal; an aggressive, shade- tolerant plant which takes over forests by forming dense blankets of foliage that crowd out native seedlings. Today, only two percent of the islands’ native laurel forest remains – a collapse which would have starved the endemic Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina into extinction, were it not