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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Researching introduced forest species in Trinidad

Many introduced species can have an adverse effect on native biodiversity, especially on a delicate island habitat such as Trinidad and Tobago. Three forest species are being particularly troubling, namely, Tectona grandis (teak), Acacia mangium (brown salwood) and Leucaena leucocephala (white leadtree). So, with funding from the FAO, CABI is researching the species to find out how they behave and where they have invaded with a view to controlling them sustainably.

Project Overview

So, what's the problem

Over the past decades many plant species have been introduced for a variety of reasons: as crops for food production, as pasture for animal feed, as forestry for wood and wood products and as ornamentals. These introduced species often take over and crowd out native biodiversity and can affect a country’s GDP, its biodiversity and its peoples’ livelihoods.

Islands are especially at risk because of their delicate ecosystems and endemic natural species.

What is this project doing?

To begin tackling this, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations commissioned a preliminary analysis of the invasive risks posed by the introduction of three selected species. 

Species selection

The three forest species selected for this study represent plants that have been introduced to Trinidad for differing purposes. Tectona grandis (teak) was introduced just over 100 years ago for its prime timber; Acacia mangium (brown salwood) was introduced primarily to rehabilitate mined out quarry lands while Leucaena leucocephala (white leadtree) was introduced as an agro-forestry species for use as a livestock feed. 

The selected site is an abandoned buffalo pasture located along the Naparima Mayaro road in Tabeland. Teak trees were planted as living fence posts in 1982 but many of these posts went on to grow into viable seed producing trees. After removal of the animals in 2004, the seeds invaded the pasture lands. Since we know the time of this site’s invasion, we can easily determine the rate of the invasion here.

Three sites were selected to assess the invasiveness of Acacia mangium. The first is near a national quarry where it was first introduced and is being done in collaboration with the Forestry Department as they are looking to rehabilitate mined out quarry lands. The second is in the northern range and a third is in the Aripero Savannahs and Scientific Reserve a protected area. Nearby is a pure stand of Acacia mangium planted by the department of forestry.

The site selected for Leucaena leucocephala is an abandoned sugar cane plantation close to the Brian Lara Stadium.


Belted line transects of 100 meters were laid down and the GPS location for each transect was recorded. Then along each transect, plots of 5m x 5m were marked out at 25 meter intervals. Within each plot the height and girth of each species of interest was recorded. The percentage of bare ground, grass, sedges and shrubs were visually estimated and recorded. Due to the steep topography, it was not possible to use belted line transect at the northern range. Instead 25m x 25m quadrants were marked out and the GPS location recorded. This was the subdivided into 5m x 5m plots. Five sub-plots were then randomly selected and the height and girth of all the Acacia mangium trees were recorded, together with bare ground, grass, sedges and shrubs.

Rapid reconnaissance surveys were done by driving along the main road arteries in Trinidad and mapping the location of these three species in addition to other known invasive plants. The GPS locations were recorded to map the distribution across the country. 


The collected data is currently being analyzed. The analysis will primarily show the ability of these species to move from the areas of deliberate introduction to other areas and spread to produce self-sustaining communities that then dominate the new areas.

The team

Project Manager

Staff image of Naitram Ramnanan

Naitram Ramnanan  Scientist/ IAS Coordinator and Regional Representative - Caribbean and Central America

Gordon Street
Trinidad and Tobago
T +1 868 662 4173; +1 868 645 7628

Project team

Staff image of Arne Witt

Arne Witt

Coordinator: Invasive Species


  • Trinidad and Tobago


  • Start: 01/02/2015
  • End: 31/01/2016