Title of a series: Invasive plants 1/2
DESERT FALSE INDIGO – ONCE ORNAMENTAL PLANT HAS NOW BECOME MEDICAL OR INVASIVE ALONG THE DANUBE RIVER
Name and Surname of an author: dr. Simona Mihailescu
Key words: invasive plant species, Amorpha fruticosa, alien species
The profound changes of the last decades under the influence of the industrialization and respectively of globalization include also a larger and increasingly worrying “fluidity” in the reduction, disappearance and introduction of species in equally more extensive biogeographical areas. Alien species and damage or loss of natural habitats are the main factors responsible for the disappearance of some species in past centuries. Aquatic ecosystems, especially those already disturbed by various human activities, appear to be particularly vulnerable to these invasions (P. Anastasiu et al. 2017).
Invasive Alien Species (IAS) represent a major threat to native plants and animals in Europe, causing damage worth billions of euros to the European economy every year. As invasive alien species do not respect borders, coordinated action at the European level will be more effective than individual actions at the Member State level.
In 2008, policy options to minimise the negative impacts of IAS on biodiversity in Europe and the EU. On 3 December 2008 the European Commission adopted a Communication “Towards an EU Strategy on Invasive Species”. In 2009, was done an analysis of the impacts of policy options/measures to address IAS. The EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy adopted in May 2011 announced a dedicated legislative instrument on invasive alien species, hence the new proposal.
The Commission proposal for a regulation on Invasive Alien Species was launched on 9 September 2013. The IAS Regulation (EU 1143/2014) entered into force on 1 January 2015. It provides for a set of measures to be taken across the EU in relation to invasive alien species included on a list if IAS of Union concern.
Three distinct types of measures are envisaged, which follow an internationally agreed hierarchical approach to combatting IAS:
- Prevention: a number of robust measures aimed at preventing IAS of Union concern from entering the EU, either intentionally or unintentionally.
- Early detection and rapid eradication: Member States must put in place a surveillance system to detect the presence of IAS of Union concern as early as possible and take rapid eradication measures to prevent them from establishing.
- Management: some IAS of Union concern are already well-established in certain Member States and concerted management action is needed so that they do not spread any further and to minimize the harm they cause.
The European Commission has developed an information exchange mechanism to facilitate the implementation of the EU policy on invasive alien species: the European Alien Species Information Network (EASIN). It’s an online platform that aims to facilitate the exploration of existing information on alien species from distributed sources (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/invasivealien/index_en.htm).
It includes a Species Search and Mapping tool, allowing for basic and advanced search for over 14 000 alien species in Europe and showing the distribution on a map including for the 49 species on the Union list. These invasive alien species are subject to the restrictions and measures set out in the EU: 23 plant species and 26 animal species. (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/invasivealien/list/index_en.htm).
Not all alien species cause trouble in their new environment. They often have difficulties growing and reproducing. Many are largely beneficial and impossible to think away from our lives. For others, however, the new natural environment turns out to be surprisingly favorable, in particular in the absence of their natural enemies. This allows them to spread and reproduce excessively, feeding on native species or out-competing them for habitat and resources; sometimes also carrying parasites and diseases that are lethal to native wildlife or dangerous to human health.
Ecological barriers like oceans and mountain ranges have allowed ecosystems to evolve independently, so that the species within them are adapted to each other and interact in a delicate balance. Moving species across those barriers can severely disrupt this balance and may even change these ecosystems entirely.
Indeed, invasive alien species are recognised as one of the main drivers of species extinction and global biodiversity loss. Invasive alien species can easily spread across borders. It also implements the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 which sets a specific target to combat the threat of invasive alien species in order to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/pdf/IAS_brochure_species.pdf).
If you are interested in becoming a citizen scientist and want to help monitor invasive alien species (IAS) in your region, you can use the App “Invasive Alien Species Europe” to report on the IAS of Union Concern. Developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, the app enables to report IAS occurrences in Europe allowing citizens to contribute to early detections of new invaders. The Invasive Alien Species in Europe app can be downloaded here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eu.europa.publications.mygeossiasFinancial support system.
What is important to know about invasive species!
The scientists studied different species and found that some behave like species that adapt easily to very varied environments and spread very quickly. In our case, they monitor different taxa in marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments.
Biological invasions by non-native or ‘alien’ species are one of the greatest threats to the ecological and economic well-being of the planet. Alien species can act as vectors for new diseases, alter ecosystem processes, change biodiversity, disrupt cultural landscapes, reduce the value of land and water for human activities and cause other socio-economic consequences for man.
Invasive species can be both plant and animal species. Scientists consider this plant species – Desert false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) – an invasive species.
The presence of Desert false indigo in the world and in Danube River
Amorpha fruticosa is a species of flowering plant in the legume family (Fabaceae), known by several common names, including desert false indigo, false indigo-bush, and bastard indigo bush. It is found wild in most of the contiguous United States, southeastern Canada, and northern Mexico, but it is probably naturalized in the northeastern and northwestern portion of its current range. The species is also present as an introduced species in Europe, Asia, and other continents. It is often cultivated as an ornamental plant, and some wild populations may be descended from garden escapes.
The scientists identified the presence of species in Danube River, including also in Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Amorpha fruticosa forms compact shrubs vegetation along the shores of the Danube River. As soon as they occur in a place, they grow greatly through seeds and vegetative – through small shoots and branches that reach the ground. From year to year it advances in new localities and the edge of the river is dominated by these compact bushes and native plants species can no longer grow.
Amorpha fruticosa alien species in Europe – distribution map
Common Names of Amorpha fruticosa
Amorfa drzewiasta – Polish
Amorphe buissonnante – French
Bastardindigo – German
beztvarec krovitý – Czech
cserjés gyalogakác – Hungarian
False indigo – English
Faux Indigo – French
Indaco bastardo – Italian
Indigo bâtard – French
netvařec křovitý – Czech
Salcâm pitic – Romanian
Scheinindigo – German
A noxious invasive alien plant or a medicinal plant against metabolic disease?
Amorpha fruticosa is a shrub native to North America which has been cultivated mainly for its ornamental features, honey plant value and protective properties against soil erosion. It is registered amongst the most noxious invasive species in Europe. However, a growing body of scientific literature also points to the therapeutic potential of its chemical constituents. Due to the fact that Amorpha fruticosa is an aggressive invasive species, it can provide an abundant and cheap resource of plant chemical constituents which can be utilized for therapeutic purposes. Additionally, exploitation of the biomass for medicinal use might contribute to relieving the destructive impact of this species on natural habitats.
Recent, some publications provide a comprehensive synthesis and systematize the state-of-the-art in the knowledge of the phytochemical composition and the potential of Amorpha fruticosa in disease treatment and prevention, with especial emphasis on diabetes and metabolic syndrome (E. Kozuharova E. et al., 2017).
- The data available so far about Desert false indigo are not sufficient for developing an adequate management plan for the control, containment, and eradication of this species.
- The presence along the Danube River, and even more in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve of the Amorpha fruticosa species, is more dangerous than the presence of Water caltrop (Trapa natans) in the same area.
- The horticultural trades require strict regulations regarding the import of species posing high risk of invasiveness, since the most unregulated activities are the horticulture plant species trade.
- The children can contribute with their observations at international program to monitor the distribution and impact of these species is required, together with the development of a rapid response and information network of the countries in the region of Danube River.
Anastasiu P., Negrean G. (2009). Neophytes in Romania, in Rakosy L. and Momeu L. (eds), Neobiota din România, Presa Universitară Clujeană, ISBN 978-973-610-923-2, 66-97.
Anastasiu P., Preda C., Bănăduc D., Cogălniceanu D. (2017). Alien Species of EU concern in Romania, Transylv. Rev. Syst. Ecol. Res. 19.3 (2017): 93-106, “The Wetlands Diversity”. DOI: 10.1515/trser-2017-0024
DAISIE – Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe (http://www.europe-aliens.org/)
European Commisssion (2017). Invasive Alien Species on Union concern. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/pdf/IAS_brochure_species.pdf
EU Regulation 1143/2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1417443504720&uri=CELEX:32014R1143)
Invasive Alien Species: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/invasivealien/index_en.htm.
Kozuharova E., Matkowski A., Wozniak D., Simeonova R., Naychov Z., Malainer C., Mocan A., Nabavi S.M., Atanasov A.G. (2017). Amorpha fruticosa – A Noxious Invasive Alien Plant in Europe or a Medicinal Plant against Metabolic Disease? Front. Pharmacol. 8:333. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00333.
1. and 2. Amorpha fruticosa in Danube Delta (Photo by dr. Simona Mihailescu)
3. Amorpha fruticosa in Bupyung, Korea (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amorpha_fruticosa_05.JPG)
4. Amorpha fruticosa flowers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amorpha_fruticosa-flowers.jpg, Photo: Jim Conrad)
Native species: a species that occurs naturally within a region, either evolving there or arriving and becoming established without human assistance.
Invasive species: an introduced species that takes over habitat and poses a threat to native ecosystems.
An alien species is a species introduced outside its normal distribution.
Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are animals and plants that are introduced accidentally or deliberately into a natural environment where they are not normally found, with serious negative consequences for their new environment.
To learn more about the alien species present in the Danube River, and in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, and the influence of the harbors in introducing the species into new places, you can read in the publication:
Anastasiu P., Negrean G., Samoila C., Memedemin D., Cogălniceanu D., 2011. A comparative analysis of alien plant species along the Romanian Black Sea coastal area. The role of harbours. J Coast Conserv. DOI 10.1007/s11852-011-0149-0.