Invasion of Piper aduncum in
the shifting cultivation systems
of Papua new Guinea
Alfred E. Hartemink
ISRIC – World Soil Information, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Soft cover,
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Piper aduncum, a shrub native to Central America, arrived in Papua New Guinea before the mid-1930s possibly from West Papua. From the 1970s it started to dominate the secondary fallow vegetation in many parts of the humid lowlands. It invaded grassland areas and it also appeared in the highlands up to 2100 m. The combination of its small and abundant seeds, its high growth rates, and the accidental or intentional spreading has resulted in its presence in most provinces of Papua New Guinea. The spread will continue.
Its growth rates are in the highest range found for secondary fallow in the tropics. Piper aduncum dries the soil out and takes up very large amounts of nutrients. The fallow has important effects on the soil and sweet potato, which is the main staple crop in Papua New Guinea. The invasion of Piper aduncum affects the rich biodiversity. People found several new uses for Piper aduncum and its products so it became both a resource to which they were forced - but which they also chose to use.