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Environmental & Socio-economic Studies DOI: 10.2478/environ-2022-0017 Environ. Socio.-econ. Stud., 2022, 10, 3: 59-66 ________________________________________________________________________________________________ Original article Societal perception on environmental and socio-economic implications of Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) A. Gray invasion in an Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot Prabhat Kumar Rai , Vanlalruati Department of Environmental Science, School of Earth Sciences and Natural Resources Management, Mizoram University (A Central University), Tanhril, Aizawl, Mizoran, 796 004, India E–mail address (*corresponding author): email@example.com ORCID iD: Prabhat Kumar Rai: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5373-4321; Vanlalruati: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7225-6089 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ A B S T R A C T Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) A. Gray is an emerging and little studied plant invader in North East India, an Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. Identifying the impacts of its invasiveness in terms of both harmful and economically beneficial facets is required for the formulation and implementation of sustainable management options. An environmental and socio-economic implication survey through the pragmatic questionnaire method is a useful approach to explicitly elucidate the holistic influence of T. diversifolia on ecosystem resilience. The interaction of T. diversifolia with the local people of Mizoram was assessed in this study in terms of its effects on their livelihoods, socio-economic, and ecological factors. Results of the survey in relation to agricultural implications revealed that 42.68% of the respondents opined that the dried litter of T. diversifolia can improve soil fertility. Also, 63.41% people during their interview perceived T. diversifolia as an effective tool to prevent. However, 70.73% of rural people did not consider T. diversifolia to be a good source of livelihood for income generation or socio-economic status. Since, the respondents were not aware of chemical and biological control measures to regulate the spread of invasive alien plant species, physical methods such as slashing (46.34%), burning (13.41%), chopping and burning (29.27%) were widely applied for the control and management of invaded areas of T. diversifolia at selected study sites. Thus, the survey gave a brief idea to the other local people, farmers, and agriculturists of Mizoram to control the invasive spread of T. diversifolia in forestry and agroforestry systems. Also, other Himalayan landscapes infested with T. diversifolia can generate awareness and identify the sustainable strategy for their management to conserve the indigenous biodiversity. KEY WORDS: socio-economic, Tithonia diversifolia, invasive alien plant, livelihood, sustainable management ARTICLE HISTORY: received 30 May 2022; received in revised form 23 August 2022; accepted 24 August 2022 ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1. Introduction invasive alien plant species pose a threat to natural forest ecosystems (RAI & SINGH, 2020). Invasive alien plant species have been introduced Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.) A. Gray commonly into a new area by human activity and become known as tree marigold or Mexican sunflower is a widespread, causing significant economic, ecological, perennial shrub belonging to the Asteraceae that and social impacts (ESCHEN ET AL., 2021). They have grows rapidly with vigorous reproductive attributes, been spreading progressively and reported to be reaching 2 to 3 m in height, it grows well at an widely distributed in global landscapes (MURPHY altitude of 800-1500 m, and flowers annually in ET AL., 2012). The rapid growth of invasive alien November and December (BURAGOHAIN, 2016; ROJAS- plants is usually confined to fallow lands, wastelands, SANDOVAL ET AL., 2018). T. diversifolia is native to roadsides, and disturbed habitats (HAYSOM & MURPHY, Mexico and Central America, however, in the current 2003). The increased diversity and distribution of scenario it has a pantropical distribution and has naturalized across South America, the West Indies, Africa, Asia, Australia and across the Pacific and socio-economic relevance as it is an integral Indian Ocean (USDA, ARS, 2018; GRIIS, 2018; ROJAS- landscape within the Indo-Burma biodiversity SANDOVAL ET AL., 2018). The historical trend of hotspot (RAI, 2012, 2015, 2022; RAI & SINGH, 2021). T. diversifolia depicts that its introduction into the Nevertheless, in India, a comprehensive study on African region took place around 1970 (OBIAKARA & T. diversifolia is limited and negligible especially FOURCADE, 2018). However, in Indian landscapes, in the context of a biodiversity rich region i.e. its introduction history is not very clear and it may north-eastern states (VANLALRUATI & RAI, 2021). have existed there since between 1980 and 1990. From an Indian perspective, most of the studies T. diversifolia was initially introduced as an have been conducted on a small number of invasive ornamental plant in Mizoram and subsequently alien plant species and nearly half of these studies became invasive and threatened the native plant are focused on Lantana camara L., Parthenium diversity and agricultural productivity (WITT ET hysterophorus L., Mikania micrantha L., Ageratum AL., 2019; SENGUPTA & DASH, 2020). T. diversifolia conizoides L., and Eichornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms is one of the new, or emerging, plant invaders and (water hyacinth) etc., and only limited research in the context of Mizoram it was first studied in has been done on the invasion ecology and Phawngpui National Park and Lengteng Wildlife environmental, and socio-economic implications Sanctuary however, explicit ecological research on of T. diversifolia (REDDY, 2008). To better understand it is still limited (SENGUPTA & DASH, 2020). In addition and elucidate the ecology of T. diversifolia, an initial, to Mizoram, T. diversifolia has also been found to and urgent, research in the biodiversity rich be abundant in the N.E. Indian states of Arunachal traditional state of Mizoram was conducted. In Pradesh and Manipur (NMHS, 2017). this respect, a socioeconomic survey was undertaken T. diversifolia exhibits allelopathic properties in this study to determine the associated benefits having water soluble allelochemicals in its plant parts and drawbacks of T. diversifolia. Identifying the and a phytotoxic potency capable of suppressing positive, or economically, beneficial and negative, crop plant development and nutrient accumulation or harmful, impacts of T. diversifolia invasiveness (OTUSANYA ET AL., 2015). However, the allelopathic are required in order to evaluate the consequences potential may vary over time as concentration and of invasion processes, gaps in socio-economic function of allelochemicals usually change with implications, and to implement management vegetation succession (MUSCOLO ET AL., 2006; ZHAO measures. ET AL., 2011; DJURDJEVIC ET AL., 2015). The aqueous extracts of T. diversifolia are more phytotoxic than 2. Methods Chromolaena odorata L. extracts, in reducing plant growth (OTUSANYA ET AL., 2015). Aizawl, the state capital of Mizoram, lies between A household survey conducted in the lowlands 92°3’- 92°60’ E longitude and 21°58’- 24°85’ N of Bale zone, Ethiopia, showed that although invasive latitude and is located in the north-eastern part plant species have certain economic and ecological of India (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2). It occupies an area of benefits the local communities considered invasive 3576.31 square kilometers and accounts for 16.96% plant species have negative impacts on biodiversity, of the total geographical area of the state. The study threaten ecosystems, livestock and livestock area falls within the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot products, crops, animal and human health. The most with about 86% forest cover (of the total geographical prevalent invasive plants recorded on the survey area) which comprises a great variety of flora and site were Parthenium hysterophorus L., Xanthium fauna and has a significant endemic component, strumarium L., Argemone ochroleuca L., Caesalpinia particularly in the case of plants (TORDOFF ET AL., spp, Acacia sp., A. mellifera (M.Vahl) Benth., A. seyal 2012; RUATI & RAI, 2021; SAKACHEP & RAI, 2021). DEl. and A. tortolis (Forssk.) Hayne (MUSSA ET AL., The endemic plants in north-east India can be 2018). Further, it is reported that T. diversifolia listed as orchids (existing record of 730 orchids contains some allelochemicals and thus its infestation out of 1229) and bamboos (record of 65 bamboo in the crop field pose a serious threat to plantations species out of 130) which denote this region for of rice (Oryza sativa L.), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor biodiversity conservation priorities (RAI, 2012). (L.) Moench), and maize (Zea mays L) (IMEOKPARA However, about 70% of the plant diversity of this & OKUSANYA, 1994). Likewise, the fast spread of T. Indo-Burma hotspot region is threatened due to diversifolia could devastate the environment and multiple anthropogenic perturbations such as have an impact on the community's socio-economic infestation of invasive alien plants (RAI & and livelihood prospects (WITT ET AL., 2019). The LALRAMNGHINGLOVA, 2010). The present survey was landscape selected in this study (Aizawl, Mizoram, conducted between December 2020 and February North East India) is of extreme ecological and 2021 at different sites within Aizawl city and towns (viz. Ramthar, Tanhril, Chawlhhmun, Zemabawk, Zuangtui, Thuampui, Durtlang, Selesih and Sihphir) where T. diversifolia occurs abundantly (Table 1 and Fig. 2). It is important to mention that the roadsides and marginal lands were the places or ecotopes where the dominance of T. diversifolia was observed at a maximum. Fig. 3 shows T. diversifolia within the selected study area. Table1. Demographic profile for the socio-economic survey L. No of Percentage No Parameters individuals (%) (n) Age 10 to 20 years 12 14.63 21 to 30 years 18 21.95 31 to 40 yeass 33 40.24 41 to 50 years 10 12.20 51 to 60 years 5 6.10 61 years old or more 4 4.88 Total 82 Gender Male 37 45.12 Female 45 54.88 Total 82 Education Up to high school 27 32.93 Bachelor's degree 30 36.59 Master's degree or higher 12 14.63 Fig. 2. Map showing survey sites to assess societal N/A 13 15.85 perception on environmental and socio-economy impacted Total 82 by invasion of T. diversifolia Occupation Farmers 22 26.83 Students 11 13.41 Retired 5 6.10 Govt. servant 10 12.20 Private sector 13 15.85 Others* 21 25.61 Total 82 *Others includes: Driver, housewife, business owner, electrician, labour, storekeeper Fig. 3. T. diversifolia at the selected area of Mizoram (Photo Courtesy of Vanlalruati) The environmental and socio-economic implications of T. diversifolia invasions were assessed by interviewing 82 individuals using semi-structured questionnaires. The questionnaire was made with the aim to gather information on the introduction history and spread of T. diversifolia in the study Fig. 1. Location of the study area of Aizawl, Mizoram, North area, an integral part of the Indo-Burma hotspot East India (an Indo-Burma global biodiversity hotspot) region. The questionnaire was further structured while 15.85% believed that it was spread by livestock to investigate the existing harmful and economically as they act as a carrier or vector for the spread of beneficial aspects of T. diversifolia in the forestry/ T. diversifolia. There were people (8.54%) who did agro-forestry systems of the study area. The not have any idea and were unsure about the agents respondents were selected from the study areas based responsible for its spread (Table 2). on the knowledge that he/she has of T. diversifolia. Table 2. Respondents opinions on how T. diversifolia has The responses of the individuals were recorded and spread in Mizoram (n=82) noted down on the questionnaire. In addition, the data recorded were summarized and processed for Sl. no Parameters Responses % references. The environmental and socio-economic Human activities (such as 39.02 implication survey is a useful method to understand ornamental, medicine, etc) 1 Mode of Climatic factors the impact of T. diversifolia on the local people, their 36.59 introduction (such as wind, rain, etc) livelihood, and the interrelationships between Livestock 15.85 economic and ecological factors (MUKHERJEE, 2003; WITT ET AL., 2019). No idea 8.54 3. Results and discussion 3.2. The influence of T. diversifolia on agro- ecosystems/agro-forestry systems 3.1. The spread and introduction of T. diversifolia in Mizoram Around 65.85% of people responded that T. diversifolia grew very well in their locality and Tithonia diversifolia is locally known as ‘Bawngpu the plants occupied a large geographical area of par’, ‘Nihawi par’, ‘Khawldaipar’ and ‘Vaivakawn their land. The farmers residing on the outskirt of par’. Among the respondents, none of them could Aizawl considered it to be a threat since T. diversifolia mention the exact year when T. diversifolia arrived in was a hindrance to them when accessing their crop Mizoram. Although there were no formal records plants in agricultural systems especially during of the year of invasion, T. diversifolia was known the growing and flowering period (i.e., September to invade Mizoram during the 1960s (as per 53.66% to February). While several (21.95%) respondents of respondents). In this aspect, 46.34% did not concluded that the occurrence of T. diversifolia on notice the arrival and presence of T. diversifolia in their crop land do not pose a threat to the native their area. All the respondents (100%) strongly crop plants. They just considered it as a plant which believed that it is an invasive plant and could not beautifies their land as the flowers are aesthetic be considered as a native plant species. There were and provide a recreational essence. Others (12.2%) 39.02% of the respondents who considered that responded that although T. diversifolia caused a humans deliberately introduced T. diversifolia as threat to the native plants on their cultivated ornamental plants in Mizoram which facilitated their lands the problem to their agriculture systems is spread. Other respondents (36.59%) thought that manageable, however, it may be of more concern climatic factors (such as wind and rain) were one of in the near future (Table 3). the reasons for the rapid spread of T. diversifolia, Table 3. Overall opinions of the respondents on the positive and negative impacts of T. diversifolia (n=82) Percentage of respondents who Percentage of respondents who No idea Sl. no Parameters consider positive impact (%) consider negative impact (%) (%) 1 Agro-forestry 21.95 65.85 12.2 2 Bio-fertilizer 42.68 37.81 19.51 3 Socio-economic purposes 29.27 70.73 - 4 3.66 - 96.34 Medicinal plant 5 Soil erosion 63.41 - 36.59 6 Livestock feed 24.39 - 75.61 7 Pest and weed control - - 100 3.3. T. diversifolia as a bio-fertiliser Some respondents from Zuangtui and some farmers from Selesih reported that T. diversifolia In the questionnaire survey, people (42.68%) is used for fencing around homesteads and to opined that the dried litter of T. diversifolia improved demarcate the boundaries between their farms the soil fertility. The respondents opined that after from other farms. Due to the attractive colour of its the flowering period was over, the plants dried out flowers, people used them for home decoration. and the heavy left-over litter on the ground caused a In the context of aquatic ecosystems, T. diversifolia problem for the farmers as the plants are usually was observed to grow successfully near rivers banks. long and bushy within dense thickets. Therefore, In Aizawl, T. diversifolia did not grow very well physical treatment sometime becomes pertinent with other invasive alien plants of the Aizawl region. for their fast decomposition. The respondents also However, it grows well along with other invasive thought that the plant litter and residues enriched plants in certain patches located in the remote the soil by providing organic matter to the soil. outskirts of Aizawl. At these sites, Ageratum Despite the slow rate of decomposition, T. diversifolia conyzoides L., Lantana camara L. and Mikania biomass increases the soil fertility, thereby increasing micrantha L. were noted as co-dominants with T. the production of T. diversifolia each year. However, diversifolia. In some places farmers chopped and other respondents (37.81%) did not consider T. mixed the leaves of T. diversifolia with wheat grains diversifolia to be a good option to use as a bio- and fed them to their cattle and broilers (24.39%) fertiliser. In this context, 19.51% of respondents did whereas the majority of the respondents (75.61%) not have any idea about the role of T. diversifolia did not use T. diversifolia for any purpose (Table 3). in augmenting the soil fertility. Moreover, none of the respondents used T. diversifolia for mulching 3.5. Use of T. diversifolia for the control of soil to improve soil fertility (Table 3). erosion 3.4. Use of T. diversifolia for socio-economic/ T. diversifolia was considered to be an effective livelihood prospects tool to prevent soil erosion by the respondents (63.41%) of the survey. In this sense, the biomass In relation to socio-economic uses, 70.73% of of T. diversifolia tightly binds the soil particles respondents did not consider T. diversifolia to be together with their root system and thereby a good source of income, especially as an ornamental serves as an effective protective layer to help and flower because the flowers wither away very fast. prevent soil erosion. Due to their strong roots The flowers therefore required preservation for and dense blossom, the respondents considered selling purposes. The respondents also thought that these as a protective wall or barrier to the ground if there were more options for further processing and soil against harsh winds and extreme rainfall. the flowers, or the plant parts, into ornamentals Of the respondents 36.59% were neither aware, or for medicinal purposes, it would be a good source or not, of any scientific knowledge about an of income. Besides some respondents (29.27%) applicable mechanism of T. diversifolia in preventing sold T. diversifolia plants to cattle or livestock rearer soil erosion (Table 3). at affordable prices (Table 3) During the survey it was known that 3.66% of 3.6. The negative and economically beneficial the repondents used T. diversifolia for medicinal impacts of T. diversifolia invasions purposes but not for economic purposes. In this respect, the leaves of T. diversifolia were crushed The negative response pertaining to the local and boiled with water. The leaves of T. diversifolia perception of T. diversifolia included various aspects. contain an anti-inflammatory compound which The long stalks and leaf litter of T. diversifolia acts as an anti-bacterial agent (OLUKUNLE ET AL., occupied more ground space and took time to 2014; OMOLOLA, 2020). The residue of boiled leaves decompose on the ground unless they were was used as a paste and applied on the wound adequately chopped into fine pieces. Also, the leaves and the filtered liquid was used for the treatment and stalks of T. diversifolia disturbed the growth of abdominal pain. Nonetheless, T. diversifolia has of the young, or native, plants and eventually inhibited not been recorded as a medicinal plant locally. the growth of other plants. Respondents admitted This may be due to lack of documentation in the that the thickness of the plants blocked the incoming context of ethnomedicinal attributes of T. diversifolia sunlight for smaller plants, replaced native vegetation, in Mizoram. Accordingly, 96.34% of the respondents affected the natural regeneration of other plants, did not know about the medicinal purposes of T. and hindered the growth of other plants on land and diversifolia (Table 3). along riverbanks. In respect of the eradication and management of T. diversifolia, farmers required plant, nor about their control or management. All high manpower as it was mainly abundant along respondents interviewed (100%) were totally roadsides with steep slopes (Table 3). unaware of using chemicals/secondary metabolites The positive aspects included the use of T. (such as insecticides or pesticides) for the diversifolia for ornamental and decorative purposes. management of T. diversifolia. They added that since People from Zuangtui and some farmers from T. diversifolia is present on sloping areas they do not Selesih used T. diversifolia for fencing around have any need to control the growth and distribution homesteads and to demarcate the boundaries either biologically or chemically (Table 4). between their farms and other farms. Due to the Table 4. Percentage of respondent who performed different attractive colour of the flowers, people used them kinds of methods to manage the control of T. diversifolia (n=82) for make-up and home decoration. T. diversifolia Management Sl. no Methods % was also used as a traditional medicine for the practices treatment of wounds and abdominal pain. In the Slashing 46.34 context of aquatic ecosystems, T. diversifolia was 1 Physical Burning 13.41 observed to grow successfully near riverbanks. In Chopped and burnt 29.27 Aizawl, T. diversifolia did not grow very well with 2 Chemical - - other invasive alien plants of Aizawl. However, it grows well along with other invasive plants in 3 Biological - - certain patches located in the remote outskirts of 4 Nothing/Not sure - 10.98 Aizawl. At these sites, Ageratum conyzoides, Lantana camara and Mikania micrantha were noted as co- The socio-economic analysis of people’s dominant with T. diversifolia. In some places the perceptions in the present study aimed to outline leaves of T. diversifolia was chopped and mixed the possible effects of T. diversifolia on the economy, with wheat grains and fed to their cattle and broilers agriculture, and livelihoods of the local people . (24.39%) whereas the majority of respondents In Zambia, the invasion of T. diversifolia caused a (75.61%) did not use T. diversifolia for any purpose serious problem to farmers who were forced to (Table 3). It is worth mentioning that although abandon their land but in the study areas there T. diversifolia offers some economic uses, these were no such cases observed during the survey should not be considered as positive effects in (WITT ET AL., 2019). In Kenya, T. diversifolia was terms of biodiversity conservation (RAI & KIM, 2020). used for soil fertility management when there was a Therefore, sustainable management options should scarcity of animal manure (KIPTOT, 2008) whereas in be formulated to mitigate the spread of T. diversifolia Aizawl, only 42.68% of respondents considered in the landscape of this Indo-Burma hotspot region. T. diversifolia improved the soil fertility. Since, T. diversifolia forms dense stands the plants act as 3.7. The control and management of T. diversifolia barriers to minimize the impact of heavy rainfall on in Aizawl, Mizoram, North-East India the soil, thus limiting soil erosion. Also, T. diversifolia was used for fencing around homesteads and to Respondents opined that the physical method was demarcate the lands of different stakeholders. the best way to control the growth of T. diversifolia and were ignorant about ecological economics and 4. Conclusions ecosystem-based repercussions. This is because farmers and local people do not have the proper The questionnaire surveys conducted on awareness of the control and management of people’s perception of T. diversifolia revealed plant invasions by either chemical or biological both economically beneficial and negative, or strategies. Since T. diversifolia is tall and spreads harmful, effects in terms of their environment and quickly, it occupies a large area and hampers the livelihoods. However, the beneficial economic effects growth of other plants. It is convenient for farmers do not license human society to encourage the and local people (46.34%) to attempt to reduce spread of T. diversifolia and effective mitigation the growth of plants either through slashing or strategies are warranted to augment its sustainable cutting the root. Other respondents (13.41%) burnt management. This study explicitly indicated that the plants after flowering and senescence in-situ T. diversifolia has a great potential in multiple sectors i.e., with-in the habitat area itself, while 29.27% related to agriculture, farming and even in ethno- first cut/chopped the plants and left it to dry for a pharmacology, if clinically tested or validated for few days and later burned the T. diversifolia plants. secondary metabolites based on its medicinal values. However, 10.98% of respondents were neither Nevertheless, these beneficial, or economic uses, concerned about the growth of this invasive Mussa M., Teka, H., Aliye A. 2018. 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Environmental & Socio-economic Studies – de Gruyter
Published: Sep 1, 2022
Keywords: socio-economic; Tithonia diversifolia; invasive alien plant; livelihood; sustainable management
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