Transforming the invasive species Lantana camara into eco-friendly green furniture through Project Lantana, promoting environmental conservation and sustainable design.
Lantana camara, among the world's most aggressive invasive plants, poses a severe threat to Vulture habitats in Nilgiris. Encompassing around 40% of the forests in MM Hills and BR Hills where Soliga tribal communities reside, it forms dense thickets that impede both wildlife and human movement. Even after burning, lantana resurges relentlessly. This intrusion imperils the tribes' forest-based livelihoods, reducing their already meager earnings. Containing lantana requires substantial investments, with an approximate cost of 14 lakh rupees per square kilometer. Addressing this challenge is critical not only for habitat restoration but also for sustaining the cultural and economic well-being of the local tribes.
Eco Eclectic Tech in collaboration with ESRAG South Asia and RC Nilgiris west has taken up the initiative to address two issues with one project. (A) Environment : - saving wildlife and getting rid of the waste. (B) Empowerment : employment generation for native.
It has spread across more than 3 lakh square kilometers of forest and has a cost burden of 14lac / sq. km to get rid of the weed.
Lantana is one of the world’s ten worst invasive species and a species of high concern for India. It competes with native plants for space and resources, and also alters the nutrient cycle in the soil. This invasion has resulted in the scarcity of native forage plants for wild herbivores. If eaten, the leaves can induce allergies on the muzzles of animals. In some cases, extensive feeding on lantana has led to diarrhoea, liver failure, and even the animal’s death.
Lantana camara affects different aspects:
Ecological Impact: Lantana camara has a reputation for being a highly invasive species. It can form dense thickets that outcompete native vegetation, reducing biodiversity and altering ecosystem structure and function. The dense growth of lantana can block sunlight, preventing the growth of understory plants and affecting the regeneration of native species.
Soil and Water: Lantana camara has allelopathic properties, which means it releases chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants. This can alter soil composition and affect soil fertility. Additionally, lantana's dense growth can lead to soil erosion, particularly on steep slopes. The plant's extensive root system can also disrupt natural water flow, potentially leading to increased runoff and sedimentation in water bodies.
Livestock and Wildlife: Lantana camara is toxic to many livestock species, including cattle, horses, and sheep. Ingestion of lantana leaves and stems can cause liver damage and photosensitivity, leading to illness and sometimes death. Additionally, the dense thickets formed by lantana can reduce available forage for grazing animals. While lantana is generally avoided by most wildlife due to its toxicity, certain species may be negatively impacted if it displaces their preferred habitat or food sources.
Agricultural Impact: In agricultural areas, lantana can be a significant problem. It competes with crops for resources and can reduce crop yields. It also hampers farm operations by interfering with access to fields and obstructing machinery.
The widespread invasion of lantana across 303,607 square kilometers of forest poses a significant national challenge. The inventive conversion of this invasive plant into eco wood presents a dual solution: mitigating lantana's impact while revolutionizing carbon-intensive plywood production. This innovation boasts inherent carbon negativity, countering its manufacturing footprint with recyclable benefits. By aligning with UNSDGs goals, this eco wood addresses social and environmental objectives. It's a transformative step toward sustainable resource utilization, combating invasives, reducing carbon emissions, and advancing the United Nations' global sustainable development agenda.
At the UN Biodiversity conference COP15, in Dec 2022, the world came together to a decision to save 30% of it's biodiversity.
In the Indian context, the current situation requires we restore as much of our forests as quickly as we can to meet this goal. In India, most of our forests are degraded with invasive species like Lantana, Parthenium etc. To conserve our biodiversity, which is overrun by these invasives, novel ways that are sustainable ecologically and economically are required.
Here, we present a circular economy project design dealing with invasive plants which also funds conservation endeavours. This is a turnkey project which can be easily transferred to any location with a minimal adjustment to local needs..
A circular economy project that can be scaled anywhere there are invasive species and lead to a sustainable habitat restoration project. Carbon sequestration through habitat restoration in forests is higher than trying to reforest areas. This can be a turnkey operation in most forests in India.
Removal of Lantana from 75 acres in the villages outside the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve
Converting this cut Lantana to plywood as a way of upcycling, creating a market for the use of this widespread invasive, and employment to men and women in the region
Creating a community-based conservation network to map critically endangered vultures in the area and as stewards to this population