Miconia threat unchecked in Tahiti

10:41 am on 22 January 2016

The effects of global warming on an extremely invasive plant in French Polynesia are not as profound as once hoped.

The South American miconia tree, known as the 'green cancer' due to its ability to overwhelm other species, has decimated two thirds of the vegetation of French Polynesia.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Alcalá in Spain have identified 91 countries at risk of colonisation by the plant.

Researcher, Noelia González Muñoz, says originally it looked like global warming could save the day.

"At the beginning it was like wow this is so cool, maybe climate change is going to win by itself with Miconia, once we look really at our results, climate change is going to mostly reduce the suitable areas of the species but in it's native range. But in contrast in the invaded range it's not going to be reduced."

The research team have produced global maps of areas susceptible to the plant, and hope they will alert people to take action and stop miconia from spreading.

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Photo: RNZI Walter Zweifel