Assessing the invasiveness of Acacia stricta and Acacia implexa : is eradication an option?

Kaplan, Haylee (2012-03)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis investigates the invasiveness and current status of two Acacia species recently identified as invaders in South Africa in order to determine the feasibility of their eradication. Australian acacias are among South Africa’s worst invasive species and many have had widespread damaging impacts on native ecosystems. In addition, several Acacia species still exist as small isolated populations in the country and have been targeted for eradication in order to prevent potential widespread impacts. This work assesses Acacia implexa (Chapter 2) and Acacia stricta (Chapter 3) as potential eradication targets by quantifying the extent of their invasion in South Africa, assessing the risk they pose to the country and evaluating the feasibility of their eradication based on estimated costs of clearing. Results of formal risk assessments show that both A. implexa and A. stricta should be considered high risk species, and bioclimatic model predictions indicate that both species have large potential ranges in South Africa. Detailed population surveys found that A. implexa and A. stricta each occur at several distinct localities all in the Western Cape Province. Acacia implexa populations were found at three sites (Tokai, Wolseley and Stellenbosch) where they have densified by means of vegetative suckering allowing A. implexa to outcompete native vegetation. No evidence of large seed banks of A. implexa were found, however vigorous resprouting following damage makes the control of A. implexa difficult. Acacia stricta was found at nine localities all in the Knysna area of the Garden Route, where populations are spreading along disturbed roadsides in plantations. Acacia stricta produces large amounts of seeds and can accumulate large seed banks. Seed spread is most likely due to large-scale soil movement by road maintenance vehicles which can easily lead to the establishment of new populations. We therefore used a predictive risk mapping approach based on the association of A. stricta to roadsides and disturbed plantations to enable effective searching to detect all infestations of A. stricta. Based on the high risk of both species and the limited range sizes of the currently known populations, we recommend that A. implexa and A. stricta remain targets for eradication. Management strategies proposed for these species (Chapter 4) include clearing on an annual (in the case of A. stricta) or biannual (for A. implexa) basis to prevent seed production, and targeted awareness campaigns at a national scale to determine whether our current knowledge of the extents of A. implexa and A. stricta are accurate. This work has shown that detailed assessments of species at intermediate stages of invasion is an important initial step in an eradication attempt, and better understanding of species specific invasion characteristics can help to improve management and potentially increase the probability of success of eradication.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die invasieve en die huidige status van twee Acacia spesies onlangs geïdentifiseer as indringers in Suid-Afrika ten einde die lewensvatbaarheid van hul uitwissing om te bepaal. Australiese akasias is onder Suid-Afrika se ergste indringerspesies en baie het wydverspreide skadelike impak op die inheemse ekosisteme. Verder het verskeie Acacia spesies bestaan nog steeds as 'n klein geïsoleerde bevolkings in die land en wat geteiken is vir uitwissing in om moontlike grootskaalse impakte te voorkom. Hierdie werk beoordeel Acacia implexa (Hoofstuk 2) en Acacia stricta (Hoofstuk 3) as 'n moontlike uitwissing teikens deur die kwantifisering van die omvang van hul inval in Suid-Afrika, die beoordeling van die risiko wat hulle inhou vir die land en die evaluering van die haalbaarheid van hul uitwissing op grond van beraamde koste van die wiele ry. Resultate van formele risikobepalings toon dat beide die A. implexa en A. stricta moet oorweeg word om 'n hoë risiko spesies, en bioclimatic model voorspellings dui daarop dat beide spesies het 'n groot potensiaal bereik in Suid-Afrika. Uitgebreide bevolkings opname gevind dat A. implexa en A. stricta elk by verskeie afsonderlike plekke in die Wes-Kaap voorkom. Acacia implexa is op drie plekke (Tokai, Wolseley en Stellenbosch) gevind, waar hulle deur middel van vegetatiewe suier densified en inheemse plantegroei oorwin het. Geen bewyse van groot nageslag banke van A. implexa is gevind, maar in kragtige resprouting volgende skade maak die beheer A. implexa moeilik is. Die Acacia stricta is op nege plekke in die Knysna-omgewing van die Tuinroete, waar die bevolkings verspreiding langs die versteurde paaie in plantasies. Acacia stricta produseer groot hoeveelhede saad en kan versamel groot saadbanke. Saad versprei is waarskynlik te danke aan grootskaalse grond beweging deur die instandhouding van paaie voertuie wat kan lei tot die vestiging van nuwe bevolkings. Ons het dus 'n voorspellende risiko kartering benadering wat gebaseer is op die vereniging van A. stricta aan paaie en versteurde plantasies in staat te stel om doeltreffend te soek alle besmettings van A. stricta op te spoor. Gegrond op die hoë risiko van beide spesies en die beperkte reeks groottes van die bevolking wat tans bekend is, beveel ons aan dat A. implexa en A. stricta bly teikens vir uitwissing. Bestuurstrategieë vir hierdie spesies (Hoofstuk 4) voorgestel word, sluit in die skoonmaak op 'n jaarlikse (in die geval van A. stricta) of die halfjaarlikse (vir A. implexa) basis van die saad produksie, en geteikende bewusmakingsveldtogte om te voorkom dat 'n nasionale skaal om te bepaal of ons huidige kennis van die omvang van A. implexa en A. stricta akkuraat is. Hierdie werk het getoon dat uitgebreide aanslae van spesies op intermediêre fases van die inval is 'n belangrike eerste stap in 'n poging van die uitwissing, en 'n beter begrip van spesies spesifieke inval eienskappe kan jou help om te verbeter en potensieel verhoog die waarskynlikheid van sukses van die uitroeiing nie.

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