Invasion Biology

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Invasive alien plants in South Africa: how well do we understand the ecological impacts?

This paper examines the evidence for the effects of invasive alien plants in natural and semi-natural ecosystems in South Africa. Invasive alien plants are concentrated in the Western Cape, along the eastern seaboard, and into the eastern interior, but there is a shortage of accurate data on abundance within this range. Most information on site-specific impacts comes from the fynbos biome, and is generally poor for other biomes. The consequences of invasions for the delivery of ecosystem goods and services to people are, with the notable exception of their influence on water resources, inadequately studied. Our understanding of many of the broader aspects of invasion ecology needs to be enhanced, and we identify important challenges for research to address critical gaps in knowledge. Priorities for future research include the development of a predictive understanding of the rates of spread of invasive alien plants, and the development of achievable goals for ecosystem repair after clearing, including measurable criteria for assessing the success of restoration. Climate change could significantly exacerbate problems with invasive species and work is needed to accommodate plausible trajectories in planning and management frameworks. Perhaps the greatest challenge for South African ecologists is to address the twin issues of skills development and social transformation, to ensure that adequate and relevant ecological expertise is maintained to meet future research and management needs. Formal collaboration between organizations to address capacity building and educational transformation in the field of invasion ecology would represent a significant step forward.


Difficulty B

Dr Richard Knight Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Bellville 7535

Phone 27 + 21 + 959 3940
Fax 27 + 21 + 959 1237



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