Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas (SAPIA) phase II

The Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas (SAPIA), under the leadership of Lesley Henderson, is an important resource for planning the effective control of invasive alien plants in South Africa. SAPIA aims to collect and computerize information on the distribution, abundance and habitat types of naturalized and invasive alien plants in the southern African region.

The SAPIA database is one of the most comprehensive databases on invasive alien plants in southern Africa and currently contains almost 60 000 locality records of 600 naturalized alien plant species in 1 500 ¼ ° squares mainly in South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. The records span a period of almost three decades. The SAPIA dataset incorporates the roadside surveys of South Africa done by Lesley Henderson from 1979– 1993 and the SAPIA phase I project (1994–1998).

The first phase of SAPA was inspired by the Southern African Bird Atlas Project in the 1980s and was designed along similar lines. The project, using volunteeer participants, was conducted over a five-year period from January 1994 until December 1998. Information was recorded on two standardized atlas sheets, with slightly different species lists, covering the western and eastern halves of the atlas region. One hundred plant taxa were listed on each sheet, with a combined total of 161 species. After 2000 the SAPIA initiative dwindled due to lack of funding but will be revived in 2006 with funding from the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry's Working for Water programme (WfW).

In 1998 the SAPIA database was identified at a workshop commissioned by the Department of Agriculture as the starting point for the development of a national information system for the management of invasive alien plants. In 2000 SAPIA was incorporated into AGIS (Agricultural Geographical Information System) but only a limited amount of information could be accessed at the Weeds and Invasive Plants website. The SAPIA phase II project aims to improve the functionality of the SAPIA database and access to data.

Key objectives of the SAPIA phase II project are:

  • To launch a second phase of SAPIA with public participation from September 2006

  • To continue surveys of invasive alien plants in South Africa started by Lesley Henderson in 1979 and which form the basis of the SAPIA database

  • To provide baseline information which is needed for the revision of the invasive plant species listed under the CARA and NEMBA Acts, such as invasive status, distribution and correct identification

  • Particular emphasis will be placed on emerging weeds and proposed weeds and invaders under CARA and NEMBA but which require further information before they can be listed

  • To make all the SAPIA information accessible to the broad public via the internet at the Weeds and Invasive Plants website within AGIS

  • Electronic submission of data - online and by e-mail.

  • Electronic newsletters

  • Standard and customized queries

A review of SAPIA and its contriubution to biological weed control was published in 1999.

Persons wanting to participate in SAPIA can contact Lesley Henderson at or go to the Weeds and Invasive Plants Website within AGIS at

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