Alfred E. Baldacchino, makes a point on the importance of indigenous and endemic plants and the concerns associated with introducing alien species in a country. This article refers particularly to the biodiversity of Malta.
“In the 1970s the government of Malta introduced Acacias trees which are detrimental to some people suffering from asthma, allergies, sinusitis etc. This alien species was introduced in Malta after a donation to the government of the time. Today, landscapers are doing the same mistakes by introducing alien species in roundabouts, streets and other urban areas. One such example is the fountain grass, Penisetum, which following its planting in major roads, has now escaped and is growing uncontrolled along streets, in fields and also in valleys, competing with indigenous flora. Alfred Baldacchino explained that while there are also indigenous plants which can cause allergies these grow in small quantities and not invasively like the alien species.
Alfred believes that landscaping streets needs to be combined with respect for the local wildlife and ecosystem. He mentions examples from other countries: “Australia and New Zealand spray each plane that lands to control the introduction of alien insects from being accidentally introduced in their country. They have learned their lesson hard after Europeans introduced foreign species which brought havoc to their indigenous biodiversity. England is spending billions to control the negative impacts of invasive species. What can we learn from them?
Alfred insists that our approach needs to change and that things can be done in a different and more professionally. “We can use many of our indigenous flora, which are so easy to propagate. We have so many beautiful wildflowers. For example Israel uses indigenous trees, such as the carob, to landscape its streets. We can do the same. Indigenous flora should be propagated locally and not imported for commercial reasons. This would help economically, ecologically and socially. We have to put our priorities right. Environmental landscaping needs to move hand in hand socially and ecologically.
Alfred also warns about the dangers of importing olive trees which are suffering from a deadly disease causing great economical and ecological damages. “Do we have to go through such negative ecological and economical experience to make us aware of the actions that needed to be taken? he asks.
Alfred calls for the appreciation of our indigenous plants, those which have been adorning our country before the arrival of man, as well as implementing clear policies concerning alien invasive species which are destroying our ecosystems.
Pope Francis, in his letter On Care for Our Common Home also echoes this thinking when he said that some profits cause “terrible injustices, much greater than the economic benefit to be obtained, . He also dedicates thirteen paragraphs (24, 32-42, 169, 190) of this letter on the value and protection of biodiversity.
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