Acacia Trees – Threat to Balanced Ecology of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Western Ghats

February 6, 2020

The acacia plants were introduced in India from Australia for reforesting disturbed lands, for timber, fuelwood, and for rapid afforestation. Today, we have a situation, where we find that the same acacia plants have found to become a serious threat to ecosystems with a range of negative effects, e.g. competition with indigenous flora and fauna, changes in nutrient cycling and hydrology, disrupting overall economic stability of local communities, and impacting on human health.

Many acacia species have aggressive root systems or produce a large number of viable seeds, both of which allow the plants to quickly invade the soils outside their growing areas. The roots are so aggressive they easily damage sidewalks and building foundations in addition to invading other plants' spaces. The variety spreads quickly through seeds and rhizomes, altering the nitrogen in the soil as it spreads so native plants can no longer grow in the area.

Acacias attract numerous insect pests, including various scale insects, caterpillars, beetles and psyllids. These plants also have symbiotic relationships with ants. The ants live in the hollow thorns and feed out of the little nectaries the plant produces at the base of the foliage. These nectaries provide the ants with sugar, protein and water, and the well-fed pests repay the plant by aggressively defending it from any potential threat. These ants fiercely sting any person who comes too near their tree. Their blossoms are said to cause asthma attacks.

The acacias we see around are invasive variety. It is expected to attain unmanageable levels in the near future causing irreversible damage to the shola forest ecosystem. The Shola forests in the Western Ghats are very rich in flora and fauna. They are considered ecologically unique, because they harbour many endemic species. Some of these species are thought to be endangered or threatened. There is great concern that acacia may cause extinction of vulnerable and critically endangered species among these if its spread to the shola forests continues at the present pace.The invasive acacia can significantly alter hydrological cycles in water-limited ecosystems even when the invader co-exists with native species.

A lack of awareness among foresters, policy-makers and other stakeholders of the negative impacts of acacia is cited as a major impediment preventing their management. More generally, the development and implementation of control/management methods are defeated by a general lack of qualitative/quantitative information on invasive trees, lack of skills and experience. Efforts are primarily needed to identify all the invasive tree species present in each region. Southwest India (Western Ghats) are very rich in biodiversity and are recognized as a biodiversity hotspot. The fears of environmentalists Shivanand Kalave, Purushottam Organic Farming group, Purushottama Rao Agricultural Research Foundation and Malnad Jagrathi Vedike and the farmers of Thirthahalli have come true in our districts too. Hence, it is our bounden duty to preserve this biodiversity for the present and the future generations to come. The state government and local bodies which took the initiative to plant them should now take it as a mission to undo the damage to the ecology and replace all the acacia plantations with indigenous plant species. 


By Dr Claret D’Souza
Dr Claret D’Souza is the head of Post Graduate Department of Business Administration at Alva’s Institute of Engineering and Technology, Mijar.
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Comment on this article

  • Save My India., India.

    Tue, Feb 18 2020

    This article would have impacted the readers, had there been up to date statistics on the area covered by these trees, scientific data on the damage they do to environment, water resources, how other countries manage this situation etc.
    Article sounds more of a layman's view.
    Jai Hind!!!

  • K.R.Ballal, MANGALORE

    Fri, Feb 14 2020

    Well researched and presented.I thought only Eucalyptus trees were harmful since they drain underground water due to deep roots.Earlier Acasia leaves were thought to be good for manuring and also recommended in social forestry with Subabul.

  • dk shetty, mangalore/Oman

    Thu, Feb 13 2020

    Very informative and interesting article that is well written and presented on the acacia trees.
    My farm has large swathe of acasia and I always used to think since it is greenery its good so I stopped workers from cutting them off.

    Dr.Calret has beautifully presented its merits/demerits.
    I thank you madam,
    some of the readers here have been shamefully disrespectful towards the writer, which is shocking.
    Lets have respect for such intellectuals/researchers, talking negatively and disrespectfully only shows poor state of mind from those comment aggressively. Right to dissent is good, but being too personal and demeaning shows lack of sensitivity and points to insecurity in the person.

    Lets appreciate efforts of people and lets not be too judgemental.

  • Polinami, Mumbai

    Tue, Feb 11 2020

    Write up lacks depth as it fails to give critical inputs as to the acreage of Acacia trees before invasive trees were planted and the current level of average. The article fails miserably in giving details of impact of this plantation. If Acacia has invaded degraded land will it not be a welcome measure as a carbon sink as well as increasing afforestation in light of the global warming? To what extent it alters nitrogen in the soil? Author has just furnished superficial information and blamed the Acacia plantation without any quantitative inputs which any article of this type expected of.

  • Bhaskar, Mangalore

    Tue, Feb 11 2020

    Thank you for a well written and informative article. You have brought to light the threat that these trees pose to our ecology and also the necessity for better management and protection of our wildlife and wilderness. Daijiworld does well but I wish that other media outlets would focus more on such issues . Time is running out. I would have wished a greater response from readers here in the comments on such a well written important article. Even Daijiworld's recent post about the impending cutting down of more than 8000 trees in Bangalore to widen several roads failed to generate much response. All the Best To You!

  • Uttam Chakraborty, Pune,maharashtra

    Sat, Feb 08 2020

    Thank you for the article. I enjoyed a lot. Such a great article.

  • Mohan Prabhu, Mangalore (Kankanady)/Ottawa, Canada

    Sat, Feb 08 2020

    Well researched and well written article.

  • A Saldanha, Mangaluru

    Sat, Feb 08 2020

    Nice, thought provoking article Dr Claret. Keep writing.

  • Sujaya, Shirva

    Thu, Feb 06 2020

    It’s true that these acacia forests breed beetles. And growing coconut trees in the surrounding areas is just impossible due to these beetles.

  • Dan M, Dubai / Mangalore

    Thu, Feb 06 2020

    God the Father on urgent Reforestation

    Sep 16, 2019
    Urgent call of God the Father to His faithful people.
    Message to Enoch.

    Days of scarcity and famine are approaching

    "My people, my inheritance, my Peace be with you.

    Moral, social and spiritual decadence is on the rise, this humanity rides toward the cliff for lack of God in his heart. The days of the great tribulation are closer and very few will be the ones who will resist it; lack of faith, united to a lack of prayer and of commitment to your Heavenly Father, will cause many for their lukewarmness to perish. My people become accustomed to live with the high and low temperatures, because they are going to intensify more and more, making many places on earth unsuitable to live in. The nights in many places will be frosty and in other ones, the heat will be intense; this will affect the ecosystem of land and sea, bringing scarcity and famine throughout the earth.

    For a time, you will have a lack of rainwater that cools the earth; it will be a dry and arid time, another sign that the sky will give you, seeking s your conversion. Pray, fast, and do penance in those days for the rainwater to return, or otherwise, there will come a time of drought and famine that will devastate all humankind. Therefore, inheritance of mine, days of scarcity are coming at the world level and the vast majority of humanity, because of his rebelliousness and apathy to my calls, will not be prepared to face them. The earth in those days close to begin, will only bear bad fruit, famine and drought, will bring plagues and epidemics, and much of humanity will die of hunger and thirst, for not wanting to heed my Heavenly calls.

    Again I repeat to you: days of scarcity and famine are approaching; those of you who can, go gathering non-perishable products and water, so you can have some stored. Those who lack of financial means, fear not, the much or the little you may have I will multiply, if you share it with your brethren ...

  • Dan M, Dubai / Mangalore

    Thu, Feb 06 2020

    God The Father on Urgent Reforestation. part 2

    Sept 16, 2019

    Message to Enoch

    "My people, the water is running out on your planet, do not waste it; protect water reserves, springs and river basins, so that they do not dry out; make good use of this natural good essential for the creation and the survival of all creatures, including the human kind. Value this natural treasure and protect it, because the days are approaching when this precious liquid will be scarcer than the gold to offer. Protect your planet; do not continue to contaminate it or to waste natural resources, so that you do not die of thirst and of hunger. Remember that my Creation is a living organism, which gets hurt and resents for your mistreatment; if you continue to contaminate her, if you continue to destroy her and to cut down her trees, you will soon run out of oxygen and of water, and if this happens, life of the earth with all its creatures will disappear.

    I make an urgent call to you Kings of the Nations and Inhabitants of the Earth, that you may stop exploiting mercilessly my Creation; do not continue to destroy the natural reserves, do not continue to pollute or to waste water, because if you go on this way, very soon my Creation will be a desert. The environmental pollution, the falling of trees and the destruction of water sources, are changing the climate across the planet; the high and cold temperatures will bring more hurricanes, tornadoes and natural disasters, which the science of man cannot contain. The climate change on Earth is caused by all the mistreatment you are giving the planet. Reforest, reforest as soon as the earth; take care of the natural reserves and of the water and do not continue to pollute the planet, so that it can breathe again and your children tomorrow can continue to enjoy this paradise!

    Your Father, Yahweh, Lord of the Creation

    Let my messages be known to all mankind, inheritance of mine."

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Thu, Feb 06 2020

    A great article. Thank you.

    Both Acacia and Eucalyptus are non-native to Karnataka. Both cause enormous damage to the native flora.

    But replacing them with eco-friendlier species on a large scale might be challenging.

  • Prakash, Mangalore

    Thu, Feb 06 2020

    Very educative article !!!
    Acacia timber is a very cheaper and durable alternative for expensive and exotic wood.. It can be grown as a agricultural product on private land, And should be cleared from ecologically sensitive forest like western ghats.

  • Darryl, Bangalore

    Thu, Feb 06 2020

    Thought provoking article indeed.
    Hoping that the Forest department, the general public and more certainly the enthusiastic nature-lovers of the region take due cognizance of the matter. Thank you Dr Claret D'Souza for the insightful article.

  • francis lobo, Mangalore

    Thu, Feb 06 2020

    Two decades back people planted eucalyptus trees as cash crops for the paper industry. Eucalyptus will grow fast, but it emptied the water table near and far beyond the plantation area. With persistent people's movement the eucalyptus plantation became a history.

    With the demise of a eucalyptus plantation, people found that acacia as a cash crop for the paper industry which grows withing 2- 3 years for cutting and sending it for processing. The paper mills are the major culprits who take waste tract of fertile land and grow acacia there for processing to paper. The Western Ghats particularly the Malnad and the Yellapur- Dandeli region has been the major affected area. Acacia is also a water guzzler for its growth and diminishes the water table and also the local ecology. Peoples movements can only save the land from degradation and destruction

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